• “I banked my life on a miracle.” – Jackie Pullinger

Hannah Whitall Smith

(1832-1911), Quaker Holiness author

Hanna was raised in a strict Quaker home and was given to morbid introspection that found little relief until her marriage to Robert Piersall Smith in 1851. They were both converted under Plymouth Brethren influence in 1858 and in 1867 had a new experience of faith that propelled them on a speaking tour of the United States and Europe. Their “Higher Christian Life” meetings in England were exceedingly popular, partly because of D. L. Moody’s success there.

They remained in England due to Robert’s declining health and observed the founding of the Keswick Convention in 1874, an outgrowth of their conferences. Trouble followed, however. Robert began to entertain notions of spiritual wifery, was criticized, and eventually claimed to be a Buddhist.

Hannah was the author of the spiritual classic, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (1875) and later developed ideas on the final restitution of all things, diverted herself into social causes and writing. She produced The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It in 1903. A year later she was stricken with arthritis. Although confined to a wheelchair and in much pain, she maintained an optimistic spiritual outlook until her death.

She had seven children in all, but only three—Mary, Alys Pearsall, and Logan Pearsall—survived to adulthood.

Books by Hannah Whitall Smith

The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It; a spiritual autobiograpy (1903)

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life(1916)

The God of All Comfort and the Secret of His Comforting (1906)

Everyday Religion Or The Common Sense Teaching of the Bible

John M. Whitall, the story of his life (1879)


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3 Responses to Hannah Whitall Smith

  • says:

    Where is Hannah Whitall Smith's quote where she urges her readers to'place their lives in the hands of the Potter who could and would transform the Christian into a vessel of honour with power to witness please? Janhocking@yahoo.co.uk Many thanks

    • womenof7 says:

      Perhaps this is it? "To illustrate all this—suppose I were to be describing to a person who was entirely ignorant of the subject, the way in which a lump of clay is made into a beautiful vessel. I tell him first the part of the clay in the matter, and all I can say about this is, that the clay is put into the potter's hands, and then lies passive there, submitting itself to all the turnings and overturnings of the potter's hands upon it. There is really nothing else to be said about the clay's part. But could my hearer argue from this that nothing else is done, because I say that this is all the clay can do 1 If he is an intelligent hearer he will not dream of doing so, but will say, "I understand. This is what the clay must do; but what must the potter do?" "Ah," I answer, "now we come to the important part. The potter takes the clay thus abandoned to his working, and begins to mould and fashion it according to his own will. He kneads and works it; he tears it apart and presses it together again; he wets it and then suffers it to dry. Sometimes he works at it for hours together; sometimes he lays it aside for days, and does not touch it. And then, when by all these processes he has made it perfectly pliable in his hands, he proceeds to make it up it into the vessel he has purposed. He turns it upon the wheel, planes it and smooths it, and dries it in the sun, bakes it in the oven, and finally turns it out of his workshop a vessel to his honour and fit for his use." Will my hearer be likely now to say that I am contradicting myself, that a little while ago I had said the clay had nothing to do but to lie passive in the potter's hands, and that now I am putting upon it a great work which it is not able to perform, and that to make itself into such a vessel is an impossible / and hopeless undertaking 1 Surely not. For he will see that while before I was speaking of the clay's part in the matter, I am now speaking of the potter's part, and that these two are necessarily contrastive, but not in the least contradictory; and that the clay is not expected to do the potter's work, but only to yield itself up to his working. Nothing, it seems to me could be clearer than the perfect harmony between these two apparently contradictory sorts of teaching on this subject. What can be said about man's part in this great work, but that he must continually surrender himself and continually trust? But when we come to God's side of the question, what is there that may not be said as to the manifold and wonderful ways in which He accomplishes the work entrusted to Him? It is here that the growing .comes in. The lump of clay would never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay-pit for thousands of years. But once put into the hands of a skilful potter, and, under his fashioning, it grows rapidly into a vessel to his honour. And so the soul, abandoned to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is changed rapidly from glory to glory into the image of the Lord by His Spirit . Having, therefore, taken the step of faith by which you have put yourself wholly and absolutely into His hands, you must now expect Him to begin to work. His way of accomplishing that which you have entrusted to Him may be different from your way. But He knows, and you must be satisfied." http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=potter+vessal+hannah+whitall+smith&sig=ckwK6f5BNZBxhIl0SQnFhQdjYdg&ei=JlD8UdiBBYO4rQHUxIDgAw&id=pggDAAAAQAAJ&ots=JIula-uuRk&output=text

  • Dell says:

    This is so beautiful. I had heard several quotes by Hannah Whitall Smith -- even read her story of her sad marriage -- but I had never heard this potter/vessel story. Thank you.

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