Jessie Penn-Lewis Preaches Holiness

Jessie Penn-Lewis was born in 1861, in Wales to a Calvinist Methodist minister. Her family had moved into an old museum – and in the attic of the old tower Jessie “taught herself to read the Bible freely” by the age of four. “There were books, books, and more books everywhere” in the home.

She received little schooling due to ill health, and was married at the age of 19 to a young British civil servant, William Penn-Lewis (despite her brother warning the fiancé that he would be looking after an invalid for life). She was converted on New Year’s Day, 1882, and ministered in the Young Women’s Christian Association, which – in 1886 – took a vital Christian stand.

She is spoken of as having received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, testifying that the Cross must come first, in dying to self, to enable the believer to move on to Pentecost.

Her preaching ministry then took her around England and on to Scandinavia, Russia, Switzerland, Canada, the USA, and India. She spoke at conferences such as Mildmay and Keswick. She records the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the Australian Keswick Convention of 1891, speaking of people who were “drunk with the joy of the Lord”.

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She was also involved in the Welsh Revival of 1904-5, developing a close relationship with Evan Roberts, the principal evangelist of that revival. When Roberts suffered a mental breakdown in 1905 she and her husband welcomed him into their home where he lived for many years. He also co-authored several works with her.

She credits South African writer Andrew Murray as having had a profound impact on her, through his writings.

In her preaching and writing there developed a strong holiness theme … which placed emphasis upon the complete crucifixion of the ‘flesh’. Nevertheless, she was also invited to speak at the Keswick Convention in 1927 … where the doctrine of holiness is based more on the new nature ‘counteracting’ the old nature, rather than the ‘crucifixion’ view that she held in common with those of the Wesleyan tradition.

She established the Llandrindod Wells Convention in Wales and later the Matlock Conferences. She contributed regularly to “The Overcomer”, a quarterly with worldwide circulation, which she founded in 1908.

Her book, War on the Saints, became a best seller in Christian circles. She also wrote Spiritual Warfare and over a dozen other books, and at one time at least, she believed that the Great Tribulation began in 1906.

Jessie Penn-Lewis died in London on 15 August, 1927.

Not everyone thinks highly of Jessie Penn-Lewis. Some say that she developed an obsessive distrust of spiritual manifestations, such as were evident in the Welsh Revival and in the Sunderland Pentecostalism.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at:

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

The Prayers of a Mother

Mothers have often felt powerless to see good outcomes in their wayward children. History and the Bible attest to the effect of a woman’s prayers and the actions of a praying mum. Those who follow my daily Church History posts will recognise two mothers in particular who saw their prayers answered for their wayward sons.

Augustine Had a Praying Mother

The famous Christian leader and preacher from the fourth century, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, did not start his life as a godly man. In fact he was immoral and a shame to his mother.

This caused great distress to his mother, Monica, even though she had great impact on his younger life. She was a godly woman who did not want her son consumed by sin, but hoped for him to serve God. Monica, however, had seen a vision, which she told to her son. She saw that one day he would become a Christian in answer to her prayers. The great Augustine that we remember was in fact the son of his mother’s prayers.

Despite Monica’s vision and her attempts to teach her son godly living, young Augustine pursued those things that appealed to his human mind. He dabbled in theatre, philosophy, rhetoric and heresy. Like many people today, he expected to find the ultimate truth from his personal explorations.

Profligate Living

Because Augustine’s notion of life was that people must find their own truth he also felt free to find his own morality. He had multiple mistresses. In fact he was so given to immorality he was later in awe of simple Christians who could resist the temptations which dominated him.

Now consider a son in such a state. His philosophy of life, intellectual pursuits and immoral lifestyle made him seem unreachable. Onlookers could have considered him a lost cause and a hopeless case.

But his mother did not stop praying for him. She had the assurance that came through her earlier vision, and she had God’s Word to assure her.

Praying Women in the Bible

Jesus gave a parable about a widow woman who deserved justice. Because she was of no social consequence an unjust judge dismissed her case. She was undeterred, but came back repeatedly to cry out for justice. In the end the unjust judge gave in to her demands and gave her justice, only to stop her pestering him.

Jesus used that woman’s situation to show that persistent prayer will be heard by God, who is much more willing to help than that unjust judge was.

“And he spake a parable to them to show that men should always pray and not give up; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. And will not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them?” Luke 18:1-7

Powerful Powerless Prayers

Even though a woman may feel powerless and unable to demand obedience from her son or justice from her society, yet she can pray powerful prayers which God will answer. This makes the powerless woman into a powerful woman of God.

That’s what happened for Monica, as she prayed for Augustine. She not only prayed herself, but she enlisted the prayers of others, tearfully determined to see her son saved.

One person Monica asked to pray with her was a bishop who comforted her with confidence in her prayers. The bishop said to her: “Leave him there, and only pray to God for him; he will discover by reading what is his error, and how great his impiety. …. Go, live so; it cannot be that the son of those tears will perish.”

While Monica was praying for her son, Augustine came under the powerful preaching of godly Ambrose in Milan. After Augustine was converted he said of Ambrose, “I was led to him unknowingly by God, that I might knowingly be led to God by him”.

Jacob DeShazer’s Mum

Jacob DeShazer was an American airman in World War II who was shot down returning from a bombing raid over Japan. He had not come to faith in God, but his mother prayed for his soul.

On the very night that Jacob leaped from his plane to parachute into enemy territory his mother woke from her sleep with the sense of falling. She did not realise that her experience had a connection with her son, but she prayed. And she continued praying for her boy, as she had done before.

DeShazer ended up in solitary confinement in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. While others were shot, his life was spared. And eventually he turned his heart to God and asked for a Bible. Once he received it he devoured God’s Word, reading it through multiple times and cross-referencing events to see that the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus were truly fulfilled in his life.

DeShazer came to faith and later returned to Japan as a very effective missionary.

God Answers the Prayers of a Mother

Mums, you may feel that you are powerless as your children head off to lives which you want to save them from. But you are not powerless. God listens to your prayers. God will hear and answer, as you press in and claim the lives of your sons and daughters.

I encourage you to do what Augustine’s mother did. And do what DeShazer’s mother did. Cry out to God for the soul of your child and confidently expect God to answer. He will.

Constantine Imposes Christianity on Rome

Constanine the Great was born Flavius Valerius Constantinus, at Naissus, Serbia (so states Christian History Magazine, No. 27, page 23). But the year? “Probably 272”, however others put the range as from 274 to 288. His father was Constantius Chlorus, a Roman officer, and his mother was Helena, a concubine and a woman of inferior birth.

Emperor Diocletian had sought to frustrate the power of the Praetorian Guard by dividing the Roman Empire into four empires governed by tetrarchs. However this situation quickly led to rivalry among the various tetrarchs.

Constantine’s father was made the new Emperor of the West, on the resignation of his own father.

During that process Constantine recognised the weakness of Diocletian’s system, and when he became Western Emperor, or Caesar, on his father’s death, he sought to keep out of the rivalry.

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However the situation deteriorated after the death of the Easter Emperor, Galerius and Constantine found himself compelled to fight for his throne against Maxentius. Having been reluctant to engage in war over several years, Constantine made haste to confront his opponent, despite his weaker forces. His men were more highly disciplined and gained the advantage in several battles as he marched toward Rome for battle with Maxentius.

Their armies clashed at the famous Battle of Milvian Bridge, October 28, 312. (See the post for October 28, 2007)

According to two Christian writers, Constantine had a dream on the eve of that battle which convinced him to adopt a Christian emblem – and wage war with his rival, trusting in the Christians’ God. He had his men decorate their shields with the sign of the Cross.

Despite being heavily outnumbered Constantine won and Maxentius drowned in the Tiber River. Constantine became the new Emperor – and he professed Christianity. He quickly proclaimed the Edict of Milan, jointly with the tetrarch Licinius, early in 313, which approved Christian worship. The persecution of Christians which had been a reign of terror under Diocletian and Maximian was now ended. Christians were released from prison and from the mines. Many who had abandoned the faith to avoid persecution now returned, repentant.

Constantine also convened the great Council of Nicea in 325AD, where over 300 bishops gathered to deal with the Arian heresy.

Initially Constantine allowed Licinius, the sole surviving tetrarch appointed by Diocletian, to keep his power. Constantine married his sister to Licinius. However Licinius conspired against Constantine and 10 years of fighting ensued until Licinius was executed.

Constantine was then the sole and undisputed supreme ruler of the Roman Empire. He moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople.

As part of his on-going support for Christianity, Clergy were exempted from taxes, Sunday was set aside as a day of worship … and his dear mother, Helena, made a trip to the Holy Land, where she found “the true cross” and a host of other relics.

Among his other achievements, he had Crispus, his eldest son, executed, and Fausta, his wife for 20 years, drowned in a hot bath! (Miller’s Church History, page 202).

He issued coins dedicated to the ‘sun god’ – and he was baptised by an Arian bishop shortly before his death on 22 May, 337.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at:

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

John Duncan Missionary to the Hungarian Jews

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan died, on February 26, 1870. He was not really a rabbi, but such was the nickname by which he became known.

John Duncan was born to humble, pious parents, in Gilcomston, Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1796, his father, John, being a shoemaker. Young John was the only child of his parents to survive infancy. He was a sickly child and a bout of smallpox rendered him permanently blind in one eye. His biographer describes him as “a delicate, dreamy, clever, engaging, affectionate, high-spirited and occasionally passionate boy, sometimes crying bitterly under the severity of paternal discipline, sometimes abruptly laughing aloud at the brightness, or at the humour, of his own hidden thoughts”.

Duncan spent time in atheism, despite the faith of his parents. The cogent reasoning and prayers to the “Great King” by his lecturer, Dr Mearns, gave Duncan a logical acceptance of the existence of God.

Trained for the Presbyterian ministry, and licensed to preach on June 24, 1825, it was not until the following year that he was genuinely converted, due to the personal work of Rev Dr Caesar Malan of Geneva, who visited Aberdeen on an evangelistic tour. Duncan was at that time in a state of mental depression.

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In 1828 Duncan enjoyed an additional spiritual touch on his life, which he referred to as his “second conversion”, due to its profound impact. He had become stale in his faith and struggled with that until he came again to strong conviction and soundness of belief.

In 1830 he was given 10 months as minister at the Chapel of Persie, from which his reputation as a profound, deeply-taught preacher of God’s Word began to spread. Thus he was given the post of English Assistant to the Rev Robert Clark of the Duke Street Gaelic Chapel with the duty of leading an English-speaking congregation on Sunday afternoons. And from there he was promoted to his own church, Milton Parish Church, which was built for him through a Church Building Association which had started in Glasgow.

Duncan married Janet Tower, of Aberdeen, in 1837, and she proved a valuable helpmate. However, just over two years later she died in 1840, following the premature birth of their child.

There was great interest in Scotland at that time for the winning of Jews to Christ. Duncan was strongly motivated in that direction and so, after about a decade of ministry in Glasgow, Duncan was selected to mount an evangelistic endeavour to the Jews in Budapest, Hungary. He attended to that task in the years 1841-42, ably assisted by his second wife. The Archduchess of Hungary had long been praying for the help of a man of God in her city, so was delighted to have Duncan at his work.

This was the most fruitful and happy season of Duncan’s life and ministry. Duncan’s excellent knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, customs and beliefs fascinated the Jewish community and gave him ready access to them. Among his converts were Alfred Edersheim and Adolph Saphir; both of whom became outstanding Presbyterian theologians.

Duncan later became Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages in New College, Edinburgh. Previously, in 1839, he had applied for the post of Dean of the Hebrew Chair of the University of Glasgow, but was unsuccessful. Dr Duncan occupied this chair for twenty-seven years from 1843 till his death in 1870.

“His students did not get much Hebrew instruction, but they were inspired by his spirit, so eminently godly” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia, page 673).

Biographer A. Moody-Stuart tells of Duncan’s strong Calvinistic views – “his aversion to Arminianism was intense” (page 192).

And the rather quaint story is told of his second marriage. Some years following the death of his first wife, Duncan married a widow named Mrs Torrance. But it nearly misfired. When the cab arrived to take him to the wedding, he was not to be found. “His niece found him in bed sound asleep with a Hebrew book in his hand” (Moody-Stuart, page 118).

And another story of his eccentricities (of which there are many) is that when asked if he would like another cup of tea – “having drained his cup 14 times, he replied, ‘No, thank you, I never take more than two cups of tea’” (page 117).

His strength waned in his later years and in January, 1870 his heart weakness significantly reduced his strength. From that time he ceased to attend the College. He passed away peacefully on the morning of February 26.

On his deathbed he said to his biographer, “I have been at the point of death. But I found that the one great mysterious death of Calvary was all I needed” (page 151).

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at:

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Freedom and God’s Law

The concept of freedom seems contradictory to the idea of law. But the two are intrinsically linked so you cannot have true freedom without God’s Law. And to attest to that fact I have a quote from an ancient man of God and a phrase from the Bible which you need to be aware of.

Remember the Galley Slave

In my previous posts about the Galley Slave Analogy I created a fictitious analogy to illustrate how everyone is in fact a slave, but one form of slavery provides freedom, while the other consumes us.

What I am sharing here is another aspect of the same principle, but this time I am being more Biblical in my reference point. Instead of a fictitious illustration that represents a truth, I want you to see what God has said in Holy Writ.

God’s Law Frees People While Man’s Law Enslaves

We think of law as most often applied to deal with the guilty. Laws are put in place to define prescribed behaviour and to provide punishment for those who do not comply with the legal requirement.

Man’s law, then, ascribes guilt and prescribes punishment. Man’s law enslaves. It enslaves because it imposes restrictions. It also enslaves because it imposes punishment, which may well be imprisonment or loss of liberty.

God’s law, on the other hand, actually sets people free. So God’s law must be looked at with fresh eyes. Do not try to understand God’s law by seeing it as just another form of man’s law. There is something supernatural and dynamic about God’s law when it is applied in our lives.

Good Success

God’s Law is so amazing that simply meditating on it causes a person to be successful in their endeavours. That’s what God told Joshua and it proved to be true in his life as a national leader and military commander.

When Joshua took over leadership of the nation of Israel, after Moses’ death, God promised him that meditating on God’s Law would bring him success that was good.

“This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

Restored Life

God’s Law has another amazing power. It rebuilds a person’s life, including their internal, unseen dimensions. King David had much to say about the important qualities of the “Law of the Lord“. The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, makes frequent reference to God’s Law.

In Psalm 19 David declares that God’s Law actually “restores our soul”. It has the effect of putting people back together again.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7

John Wycliffe and God’s Law

John Wycliffe is regarded as the earliest reformer. In the late 1300’s he gave the English their first Bibles, in their own tongue. He also challenged the unqualified authority of Popes and Bishops, declaring that only God’s Word, the Bible, is the ultimate authority. Men are fallible, even if they have achieved high office. God’s Word is reliable and divinely powerful.

John Wycliffe spoke of God’s Law as something that brings us our ultimate hope. It has a unique role in human affairs. That role is not of setting up the “do’s” and “don’ts” but of freeing people from God’s Judgement.

This is how Wycliffe put it: “God’s law, without which no one could be justified.”

Wycliffe saw God’s Law as the means by which people receive Justification, instead of the sentence of Death.

The Law of Freedom

Imagine a law being described as the “law of freedom”. That’s how the Apostle James described God’s Law that is at work in Christians. In the language of some Bible translations the term is the “law of liberty“.

“Whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, not being a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” James 1:25

“So speak, and so act, as they that will be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:12

Biblical Liberty

The Greek word used in the original text for the law of liberty describes the kind of freedom which God’s Law brings to us.

A person who is at liberty is one who is: unrestrained (to go at pleasure), that is, (as a citizen) not a slave (whether freeborn or manumitted [released from slavery]), or (generally) exempt (from obligation or liability).

People who have come under God’s Law enjoy that kind of freedom. It is the freedom of a citizen of heaven, who has access to God’s presence, can come boldly to God’s throne of Grace, is not enslaved to sin, shame, guilt, fear or demonic oppression, and is exempt from the impositions that weigh upon others.

This kind of liberty is described elsewhere in the Bible as “glorious liberty” (Romans 8:21).

God’s Law Sets You Free

Man’s laws are punitive, repressive, spiteful, vengeful and controlling. To be under man’s law is to be in a most unhappy position. Men use human legal systems to oppress, exact punishment, get even, and so on.

But God’s law has power to set men free! Oh to be under God’s law and not man’s!

The Law that is in mind here is not the Old Testament law of “touch not, taste not”, but the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 12:2). When you put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour you are Justified before God, as if you never sinner. Therefore the legal requirement of the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament Laws given through Moses is satisfied. You are then made free from the “law of sin and death”.

Did you see that, the law sets you free!

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2

Let’s here it for God’s perfect law of liberty, that makes us free, gives us good success and restores our very life! Without God’s Law we have no hope!