A Foreword to The Unselfishness of God


I had read several of Hannah Whitall Smith’s books to my
immense profit before I ever became aware that there was any
controversy with regard to the question of her being a “heretic.”
When I learned that (as I at first heard) three chapters had been
simply omitted from posthumous editions of this book; and that
one of the excluded chapters was actually the important chapter
from which the book took it’s title, “The Unselfishness of God.”
I thought it was incredible!On further investigation, I found that there were actually
six omitted chapters and two others had been combined with
adjacent chapters so that my copy had only 23 chapters and the
1903 edition of the book had a total of 31 chapters.
(32 including the introduction)In light of the liberties taken by book publishers in
eviscerating this book that HWS refers to as her
“Spiritual Autobiography,”
It is sadly ironic to read of her absolute refusal to
“sail under false colors” when told by the Brighton Conference
leaders that that unless she would promise not to let her
“heresies” be known while she was in England, they would
strongly oppose her being one of their conference speakers.
One wonders how those in Christian leadership at that time
could be as disingenuous as to engage as a conference speaker,
someone who they believed to be a heretic.It is equally dishonest of modern publishers
to have printed this important “Spiritual Autobiography”
in such a truncated form.
One’s “autobiography”, spiritual or otherwise, is a treasured legacy,
and should stand as written and allow for the flow of history
to show to what degree one’s theology
may or may not have been flawed.
I have felt impelled to make this book available in print in
it’s unabridged form, to undo an injustice done to the work and
the memory of Hannah Whitall Smith; but also, to mitigate against
a false image of our Father, God, which is so prevalent amongst
Christian people. I agree with HWS when she says,
“…the one thing which I find it very hard to tolerate, is
anything which libels the character of God. Nothing else
matters like this, for all our salvation depends wholly
and entirely upon what God is; and unless He can be
proved to be absolutely good, and absolutely unselfish,
and absolutely just, our case is absolutely hopeless.
God only is our salvation, and, if He fails us, in even
the slightest degree, we have nowhere else to turn.”
It’s true that we can hardly have a right relationship with
our Father, when we have a wrong image of Who He is. How does
the phrase, “His mercy abides forever,” fit with the teaching of
eternal torment?
And In the fifth chapter of Romans….how can it
be that Adam’s action should effect ALL
but Christ’s actions affect only a few?
Many people seem to have the view that Christ is our
Lawyer, and God is the prosecutor, but in fact we are told in
2 Corinthians 5:19  :
“that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.”
We are His children, and He will not fail to
complete the work in us that He has started….
because His love never fails.
Even if I did not share with HWS the beautiful hope of the
restitution of all things ,
I would still have to say,
“This is what she wrote. This is who she was. Let her own testimony
stand. Don’t make her out to be someone other than who she
was.” It’s simply dishonest.
In describing her revelation of the restitution of all things,
she says, “I saw all this that day on the tram-car on Market street,
Philadelphia—not only thought it, or hoped it, or even believed it—
but knew it…” The idea of “seeing” resonates with me as exactly
the correct imagery to use in conjunction with spiritual
understanding as opposed to intellectual “learning.” Once seen,
the hope of the restitution of all things makes sense of many of
the Bible’s “dark sayings”.
HWS describes this well when she says,
“I turned greedily from page to page of my Bible, fairly
laughing aloud for joy at the blaze of light that
illuminated it all. It became a new book. Another skin
seemed to have been peeled off every text, and my
Bible fairly shone with a new meaning. I do not say with
a different meaning, for in no sense did the new
meaning contradict the old, but a deeper meaning, the
true meaning, hidden behind the outward form of words.
The words did not need to be changed, they only needed
to be understood; and now at last I began to understand
I found this to perfectly describe my own experience. I
likened it to taking out one wrong piece in a jigsaw puzzle and
then having the proper pieces fit together as they should and the
true picture begin to emerge.
I found this to perfectly describe my own experience.
I likened it to taking out one wrong piece in a jigsaw puzzle and
then having the proper pieces fit together as they should and the
true picture begin to emerge.
It has been somewhat of a mission for me to see this book
made available in print in it’s unabridged form. It’s the right thing
to do — but it would have been practically impossible were it not
for Gary Amirault, who through his website,
first made me aware of the omissions in the widely distributed,
later editions of this book;
and for Brian Albert who has made the
complete book available on his website
I tried and failed to find a print copy of the complete and
unabridged book, so without the work of Gary and Brian,
I may never have had a chance to read it let alone reprint it in its
unabridged form.
HWS has given us an intimate account of her spiritual
formation; of her growing understanding of …
and relationship with God as a loving Father.
As a seeker after God, she held her dogma loosely,
and when she was in a position to have the way of God
expounded unto her more perfectly, her humility enabled her to
receive more.
In this book, she describes a lifetime of the
“Spiritual Romance”
of coming to know God,
and then distills it down to three simple statements:
Shirley Sloan

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