This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. I am slowly blogging through Steele's Answers, posting each Q & A in the order in which they appear (whether I personally agree with the answer or not). But, these posts come from several other sources, as well. I often post particularly eloquent passages from Dr. Steele's other writings. Occasionally I post "guest blogs" from other holiness writers.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit?

QUESTION: Which is the correct translation of the Greek, Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit?

ANSWER: Both are correct, but Holy Spirit is  preferable,  because the word "ghost" has in modern times suffered a degradation. You would be shocked to hear John 4:24 quoted thus, "God is a ghost." Hence the American Revision invariably says Holy Spirit. The English were more conservative. Probably they thought it would spoil too many good hymns, such as Bishop Ken's Doxology, to let the term ghost go out of religious use.

Steele's Answers, p. 227.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

In What Sense Was Jesus Tempted?

QUESTION: If, as one writer puts it, there was no tinder in Christ for the devil to strike fire into, then in what sense was he tempted in all points, as we are?

ANSWER: Like us he was free to stand or to fall, otherwise his obedience was necessary, mechanical and no more praiseworthy than a good clock is for being an accurate timekeeper. None but a free agent can be an example for a free agent. Yet there was in the divine mind a perfect certainty that Jesus would resist temptation foreseen by infinite wisdom and foreknowledge. There are two kinds of sins, one of the flesh — sins finding expression through the body, and sins of the spirit, which are mental and independent of the body, such as pride, selfishness, unbelief, malice, etc. In respect to both of these classes Jesus was tempted beginning with the selfish use of his supernaturalism to satisfy his hunger, and ending with the suggestion to avoid the cross and become king immediately by a stroke of state. The fact that there was in him no hereditary bent toward sin makes a seeming difference between him and us. But it may be that the influence of the Holy Spirit more than compensates us. Jesus stood alone as a man assaulted by Satan unaided by his own personal divinity, and by the Holy Pentecostal Spirit, who was not yet given. Delitzsch insists that the words "without sin" limits the phrase, "in all points like as we are," except an innate proneness to be led astray. In so doing the writer of this epistle "brings out more clearly the unlimited similarity in all other respects." The tempter found him without sin and left him sinless. 

Steele's Answers, pp. 226, 227.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On Hebrews 9:28

QUESTION: Please explain Heb. 9:28, showing who the waiting; persons are and what is the salvation waited for: "so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him unto salvation."

ANSWER: The Jewish high priest had to make his offering again and again (verses 6, 7, 25), but the superior efficacy of Christ's offering is proven by the fact that it was made once-for-all (one word in Greek); after which he pleads in heaven for us presenting his offering, and securing the constant three-fold offices of the Paraclete (John 16:7-11) till his second appearing to raise the dead, to judge mankind, and to glorify believers, dead and living, who are in expectancy of this completion of their eternal salvation, soul and body wearing the glorious image of Christ. Says Bishop Ellicott, on Phil. 3:20, 21, "It seems wholly unnecessary to restrict this merely to the living," since every moment the true Christian in this world and in the interval between death and the resurrection is waiting in joyful expectation of this glorious consummation. That professed disciple of Christ who is not expecting with strong desire "the fashioning anew of the body of his humiliation, to be conformed to Christ's glorified body," is a false disciple. This text cannot be legitimately used in proof of the conversion of sinners at or after Christ's future advent. Such a doctrine is nowhere taught in the New Testament.

Steele's Answers p. 225, 226.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Defense of the Pentecostal Cleansing Theory

QUESTION: A holiness evangelist who has been very useful in the past tries to prove that the Apostles were cleansed before Pentecost, and ridicules the idea of the Spirit's agency in applying the blood of Christ to cleanse the following dilemmas:

(1) It makes the penitent sinner accept the Son of God to save him from the guilt and death of sins that are past, and it requires that the regenerate believer shall accept the Holy Spirit to save him from the pollution and inbeing of sin in the flesh.

ANSWER: In the interest of clearness of thought we say that salvation requires (1) a work done for us, pardon: and (2) a work done in us, purification. The atonement makes it safe for God to offer pardon to all penitent believers, and it also procures the Holy Spirit to purify initially in the new birth, and to purify wholly through the Holy Spirit, whose agency is appropriated by faith. Here is no dilemma. Both works depend on the blood of Christ, the first directly and the second indirectly.

(2) If the Holy Spirit is the agency in applying the blood for the entire sanctification of the believer,  why not the same method for the sinner?

ANSWER: The Holy Spirit does not pardon. This is an act instantaneous in the mind of God. But purification is a process wrought in us, having a beginning and an end, the interval between them being determined by our faith, which depends on our sense of need. The new-born soul does not at first feel the need of entire sanctification, in the joy of sins forgiven; but it soon finds that there are wrong tendencies remaining which must be eradicated. This is the reason why the internal work of the Spirit, beyond the imparting of spiritual life, is not a single act coincident with regeneration and justification, but, a process having a notable end this side of death, though not, far this side in the case of those who are slow to believe.

(3) The advocates for the Pentecostal cleansing theory have but one text to support their theory, and to found a theory or doctrine upon a single text violates the rules of true interpretation by the rule of faith.

ANSWER: This is neither a theory nor a doctrine, but a historical fact proved by one witness, especially, if his testimony has many incidental confirmations, such as the changed conduct of the apostles, no more questioning who is the greatest, self-crucifixion, perfect love to one another, all things common, perfect obedience, zeal, boldness,etc., after Pentecost.

(4) The Pentecostal cleansing theory is supported ONLY by a single text and that one wrongly interpreted (Acts 15:9). The word for cleansing is an Aorist Participle (he says), and denotes completed action at a past time. (a) (And he here quotes several Greek grammarians in proof), and being an act in past time refers to initial believing or conversion. (a) Sometimes it does, and sometimes it "is joined with a verb of past time, to denote (1) that by which the action of the verb is performed, or (2) that in which it consists; here it does not denote time past with reference to the leading verb, but rather coincides with it in time." (Goodwin's Gk. Moods and Tenses, page 49.)

ANSWER: Apply this to Acts 15:8,9 and note how beautifully our paraphrase brings out Peter's meaning, "And God, who knoweth the heart, bare them (Gentiles) witness by giving (Aorist Participle) them (Gentiles) witness by giving (Aorist Participle) them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us; and he made no distinction (Aorist) between us and them (Gentiles) in cleansing (Aorist) their hearts by faith — "not by death," adds J. Fletcher. Note the fact that the two Greek Aorist participles "do not" as Professor Goodwin says, "denote time past with reference to 'made,' the leading verb, but rather coincide with it in time." The first, "giving" denotes the means "by which the second, "purifying" denotes that "in which" the leading verb "made" consists.

(5) He makes this Aorist Participle and pronoun "their" refer back through fourteen chapters of the Apostles, and many other chapters in the Gospels, and makes them travel over a retrospective roadway of seventeen years of time for their objects and antecedents to the time and act of their conversion. Has he the right view?

ANSWER: "Their" refers to "them" the Gentiles. This is as plain as the nose on a man's face. These Gentiles received either initial or perfect cleansing, according to their individual faith. Cornelius and his house were pious Monotheists in acceptance with God, some not so far advanced were probably feeling after pardon and the new birth. To these the Spirit brought regeneration which is sanctification begun and the witness to adoption, but to those who already had spiritual life there came the fullness of the Spirit sanctifying wholly. The same phenomena were seen as at Pentecost; sinners were convicted, penitents were regenerated, and believers were made perfect in love through the power of the sanctifier.

Steele's Answers pp. 221-225.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Purpose of the Church

Guest blog by Bishop Jesse T. Peck (1811 – 1883):

We have numerous organizations for the improvement of society — for the production of wealth — for the gratification of ambition — for the relief of human suffering; but only one for the promotion of holiness. We know of no other that professes to "purify the heart." What strange infatuation, then, it, must be to secularize this system! — to bring it down from the lofty purposes to which it was consecrated, and appropriate it to the service of worldly glory, and force it to gratify a lust for power. Wherever this has been done, it cannot be deemed strange that "blasting and mildew" have followed in the train. Indeed, nothing is easier now than to explain the slow progress of Christianity, the feebleness of its disciples, and the reproach which has so often fallen upon the church. Would that all Christians might be agreed upon this one thing — to consider Christianity as set apart to the work of purifying the hearts and lives of men. For all other purposes there are associations enough, while in the range of human thought there is no other that has the slightest claim to adaptation to produce this result. Precisely this is the desideratum of the times; and not until it is supplied shall we see the church shining in her own pure light, and moving on in the greatness of her strength to the conquest of the world. Happy is he who contributes, even in the smallest degree, to this glorious result.

The Central Idea of Christianity.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Grand Design of Redemption

Guest blog by Bishop Jesse T. Peck (1811 – 1883):

If the grand design of the gospel be any thing less than perfect purity, then the soul can find full rest without it. If it be only pardon and regeneration, then the discovery of remaining corruptions ought to be no cause of uneasiness; the prayers of those who groan for full redemption ought to be unheeded; or, if relief be found, it ought to be in some other system — through some other name than the name of Jesus.

But what facts does experience reveal? Why, that a deep and painful sense of inward impurity may remain after all guilt is washed away; that in the midst of the divine comforts of adoption the soul longs for the rest of perfect love; that the more devoted the life of the regenerate Christian, the more intense is his desire to be cleansed from all sin, and while he is without the evidence of this finished work, he has more or less of fear for the future. By the most powerful internal convictions, and the most obvious tendencies of every work of grace that has is heretofore been wrought upon his heart, he is urged on to this glorious consummation. And it is not in accordance with experience that he who sighs for purity of heart must sigh in vain — that he who cries, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," must pray in vain. From numerous examples in Scripture, from the testimonies of thousands long since gone to their reward, and of thousands still living, the declaration of Jesus is amply sustained: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." So far were they from being compelled to look to other systems and other names for deliverance, that they declare with the utmost confidence it was well said by the angel, "And thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins;" for we have in our hearts the divine assurance that "the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin."

And precisely as it ought to be, if [holiness] is the centre of the [Christian] scheme, here the soul finds rest — here perfect satisfaction. All its desires, all its passions, all its plans are in complete harmony with the will of God. From this sanctified state it can develop itself without inward obstruction — from this position it can expand and advance with freedom and power. The growth of the spirit, which in its original purity must certainly have been infinite, has been sadly interrupted by its dreadful disease. And since the cure commenced it has been much retarded by the remains of the disease. But, now that the cure is complete, and faith is strong and active, growth in grace is free, natural, and rapid. It is true the effects of this malady may long remain after the remedy has been thoroughly successful. Infirmities of body and mind, which constantly need the compassion of God, the merits of Christ, and the charity of men, will press upon us till our probation ends; but, in spite of them all, the soul in a state of perfect salvation, rises, enlarges, and triumphs as it could never have done under any but a remedial system.

Thus directly and inevitably does experience conduct us to holiness as the great want of immortal man — the grand design of redemption.

The Central Idea of Christianity

Friday, February 27, 2015

Greater Works

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father." — John 14:12 RV.

The question is often asked, What are "the greater works" which believers in Christ shall do? This marvellous promise is found in His consolatory address a few days before His death. The chief topic of encouragement, comfort and hope is the Paraclete whom the risen Lord will bestow. His works will be more wonderful than the physical miracles of Jesus Christ. This is declared in John xiv. 12-17. I quote Dr. Campbell's version, which is remarkable chiefly for its punctuation. It must be borne in mind that there is no punctuation in the original. "Verily, verily, I say unto you" - a formula "in which the Son of God speaks out of His coequality with the Father" (Stier) — "He who believeth on me, shall himself do such works as I do; nay, even greater than these shall he do; because I go to my Father, and will do whatsoever ye shall ask in my name. That the Father may be glorified in the Son, whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do." It is worthy of note that this doing greater works, this survival of the supernatural from age to age, is not the exclusive prerogative of the apostles, but it belongs to every one, however humble, who believes on Christ. Again, our greater works are done by the glorified Jesus on the throne above in response to our faith. In the same breath He declares that He will do the greater works which we shall do. This paradox He explains in His next utterance: "If ye love me, keep my commandments; and I will entreat the Father, and he will give you another Monitor to continue with you forever, even the Spirit of truth." This "Helper, Advocate; Greek, Paraclete" (Revised Version, margin) will be the divine agent sent down from heaven to do these greater miracles through believers in Christ. This brings us to "the miracles of the Holy Ghost" which in the Old Testament are physical, as when Ezekiel says, "The Spirit lifted me up and took me away." The same manifestation of supernatural power by the Holy Ghost was experienced by Philip: "The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more." But the promise under discussion does not relate to miracles in the realm of matter, but rather to those in the province of mind, in the re-creation of the human soul, called figuratively birth from above, or the new birth, the resurrection of a dead soul, the new creation. This spiritual miracle is greater than any physical miracle wrougnt by Christ before He burst asunder the gates of death by His Inherent power to take again the life which He had laid down, for the following reasons:

Physical miracles were temporal in their effects. Those raised from sickness died of disease in a few years. The multitudes fed by miracle hungered again in a few hours. The eyes into which Jesus by a word let in the light were soon darkened again by the shadows of the tomb. The tongue of the dumb loosened by the Son of man was soon silenced by the touch of death. But miracles wrought in the transfiguration of the soul are enduring unto eternal life. "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life within the grasp of his free agency. Jesus healed the body for time, the Spirit heals the soul for eternity. "A healed leper may appear to be a greater miracle than a renewed soul, but in reality, in comparison, he is hardly a miracle at all!" (Joseph Parker.)

The results of spiritual miracles are far more valuable. Mind is far superior to matter. Hence "to minister to a mind diseased and pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow" is an achievement in a higher realm and of immensely greater value. For this reason Christ Himself did not place a primary emphasis on physical wonders as His credentials, and they are scarcely so much as referred to in the apostolic writings. Peter, who had seen them all, mentions them only once, and then only to Christ's murderers in Jerusalem, who were incapable of appreciating any higher proof of His Messiahship: "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs." St Paul magnifies those spiritual marvels which God wrought by the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of souls. In his estimation "the shining in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" was a greater act than the Fiat lux which illumined the first day of creation (II Cor. iv. 6).

To transform a spirit from death to life, from sin to holiness, requires a higher power than any change wrought in matter. Spirit is a self-determining personality which may successfully withstand omnipotence, or rather, physical omnipotence is inapplicable to the production of spiritual effects. Sin cannot be crushed out of a soul with an almighty trip hammer. God can transform inert matter as He may will, but He is powerless to regenerate a stubborn human will; but in the presence of a consenting will He displays to the astonished universe "the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe." Hence the age of the most notable miracles is now in the very zenith of its glory. They are visible in every land where the gospel is preached in faith. Boston has just witnessed the transformation of a burglar and drunkard into a missionary on the Congo. Recovered from the slums and converted in the Kneeland Street Rescue Mission, he immediately wrote to the governor of Maryland, the scene of his crimes, offering at his request to appear in court, testify against himself, and be sentenced to the penitentiary. In the absence of such a request he volunteered to go to a deadly clime to preach Christ mighty to save.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 13.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Gifts or the Giver?

Many people are so dazzled by the splendor of the outward and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit that they undervalue the infinitely superior boon of the indwelling of the giver Himself, imparting life and adorning with all the Christian graces. To put gifts above grace is an old mistake. Simon Magus is not the last instance of this kind. Many are now eager to possess the gift of healing who would not cross the street to receive the grace of perfected holiness. It is a very serious error to regard anything as superior to the fruit of the Spirit- Churches fall into it when, seeking after a pastor, they first ask, "Is he brilliant in the pulpit?" "Is he rhetorical, poetical, oratorical?" "If he is we must have him." The question respecting his piety, his fullness of the Spirit, his grip of faith, his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, the basis of faith, and the indispensable qualification for such preaching as saves and sanctifies, is not emphasized, and frequently is not asked at all. Occasionally we find a church inquiring for a Barnabas. "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord." Yet his name, "son of exhortation," as in the Revision, Is not suggestive of pulpit oratory of the classical sort.

The doctrine of the law of the Spirit is very beautifully stated by Christ in His dialogue with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." The gift which He would have bestowed was the Holy Spirit, according to John vii. 38, 39, "This he spake of the Spirit, which they who believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not glorified." Note the invariable law of certain receiving following confident asking: If thou hadst asked, He would have given. There is the same invariable order of effect following cause in the spiritual realm as there is in the material realm. Turn the faucet, and you get a stream of water so long as the faucet is connected with the reservoir on a higher level. Try this a thousand times, and the same effect follows. Turn the spigot of true prayer, and the living water, the personal Holy Spirit, is poured out upon the thirsty soul. It has been well said that God answers all true prayer and wishes to receive more. In the bosom of the Infinite Father there is a shoreless and fathomless Lake Superior of living waters ready to fill millions and billions of human spirits when they supply the aqueducts. In fact, the main aqueduct was laid by God Himself on the day of Pentecost, and the water of life is brought to every door. To appropriate it we must lay the individual service-pipe.

"Angelic spirits, countless souls,

Of Thee have drunk their fill;

And to eternity will drink

Thy joy and glory still.

"O little heart of mine! shall pain

Or sorrow make thee moan,

When all this God is all for thee,

A Father all thine own?"

Before leaving this charming scene of Jacob's well, we call attention to another spiritual law. Not only does receiving depend on asking, but asking depends on knowing. "If thou knewest thou wouldst have asked." Many souls wonder for years in painful thirst because no one tells them of the supply of water within their reach. Hence the need of ceaseless testimony by those who have found the unfailing fountain. Hence the pressure of the missionary motive upon all who "have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost." Interest in Christian missions in pagan lands and city slums is a fair gauge of the spirituality of an individual and of a church.

If knowing depends on testimony, the inquiry arises, How many witnesses have we among our readers who can attest the fulness of the Spirit?

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 12.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spiritual Counterfeits Don't Disprove the Real Thing

It is natural that the proclamation that both the body and soul of every believer may through simple faith become the habitation of God through the Spirit, should awaken the hostility of the great adversary of all goodness, and that he should endeavor to discredit this glorious privilege of the indwelling Paraclete by inspiring counterfeits grossly defective in moral character or greatly unbalanced in mental equipoise. This he has done in every revival of genuine spirituality since the first effusion of the Spirit of promise, as in the days of Luther and also in Wesley's times.

But as men of common sense still continue to put gold in their purses despite the spurious coin occasionally uttered, so wise men and women will by the prayer of faith receive, as the greatest boon possible to mortals, the Holy Spirit as a distinct and permanently abiding blessing. Such wise people, if asked how the divine can thus dwell in the human, the infinite in the finite, and both personalities be preserved, will no more attempt to explain this mystery than they will the enigma of electricity filling a mass of iron while both remain unchanged, and that of the immaterial spirit inhabiting the material body while both retain their identity.

The rays of the sun after passing through a double convex lens of ice will kindle a fire. So the Holy Spirit has kindled an inextinguishable fire in many an icy heart. The facts in both the natural and the spiritual realm, must stand, though our poor philosophy is baffled in accounting for the manner of the facts. It is enough for us to know the conditions by which the facts are produced, where the fact itself is of transcendent value, as that man may be indwelt by God. This honor and blessedness, unknown to the patriarchs, to the Israelites, the chosen people of God, and even to the twelve apostles before Pentecost, is now offered to the most illiterate and obscure believer in Jesus Christ who will comply with the conditions by which a personal Pentecost may be experienced.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 12.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fulfill the Conditions and the Spirit Will Fall

God can do His perfect work in a soul only when the will is in the attitude of complete, trustful submission. Only when the will thus bows to God's will does faith in His promises mount up to its climax. For this Paul prayed, "that ye may know what is the exceeding greatness of his Power to us-ward who believe." Then he adds the measure of that power which stands ready to transfigure believers, "according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead." The greatest miracle in the universe, the miracle attested by men, by angels and by God, is the resurrection of His Son. Even the creation of the world was not so striking an exhibition of omnipotence. Yet Paul assures us that the same resurrection power in "its exceeding greatness" stands ready to work its wonders in "us who believe" with that faith which appropriates the largest promises of God. This highest up-reaching of faith is possible only to the deepest submission of the human will. To this point of entire self-surrender every believer has the gracious ability to descend without the incentive of outward adversities, losses, bereavements, disappointments, persecutions and bodily afflictions. These, as in the case of Job, are necessary to the revelation to the world of our perfect trust, loyalty and submission to God, but not to the production of these virtues. Many have had the spirit of the martyrs who were never led to the stake. The axe and block were once deemed necessary to Christian perfection. But this is a mistake. God takes the will for the deed. We 'can climb to as high spiritual altitudes in the sunshine as In the storm; yes, to higher. There is such a thing as an equation of spiritual advantages. Those who are on the verge of the twentieth century may achieve as lofty Christian excellencies as the believers who listened to the preaching of Peter at Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit has suffered no diminution because of the intervening centuries. Like Christ, the giver of the Paraclete, He is the same yesterday, to-day and forever. Fulfill the conditions, and the humblest modern believer may receive Him in the perfect performance of His offices as graciously and as effectively as did the company in the upper room. The externals of sound and tongues of fire were no part of the essential and inward grace bestowed in the Comforter.

When any local church, any company of believers associated for spiritual ends, fulfills the social conditions, — all of one accord in one place making the reception of the Holy Spirit their only business for at least ten days, Pentecost will be repeated in every essential particular. Their hearts will be purified by faith, and they will be endowed with a marvelous spiritual insight and courage and utterance.

It is not the law of the Spirit that His transfiguring power should decrease with the lapse of ages, nor with the spread of education and the growth of intelligence and culture. It is true that there is an intellectual pride with a pretense to culture which boasts that it has outgrown such so-called crudities as disfigured Christianity on the day of Pentecost. These over-wise philosophers insist that the doctrine that one personality, even though divine, can interpenetrate a human personality and consciously abide therein, violates all the known principles of mental philosophy and lays the foundation of various forms of fanaticism, in the end destructive of all morality and sound piety. Our reply to this is that the greater the value of a coin the greater its liability to be counterfeited. The highest possible experience for men dwelling in houses of clay is to be inhabited by God in the person of His Spirit. This is a mystery next to the incarnation of the Son of God in human form.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 12.