This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Binney: The Value of the Bible

Guest blog by Amos Binney (1802-1878):

Even as a literary composition, the sacred Scriptures form the most remarkable book the world has ever seen. They are of all writings the most ancient, and contain a record of the deepest interest. The history of their influence is the history of civilization and progress. Scarcely can we fix our eyes upon a single passage in this wonderful book which has not afforded instruction or comfort to thousands. On this ground alone the Bible has strong claims upon our attentive and reverential regard.

Each Testament enhances the value of the other. As an evidence of the close connection of the two dispensations, and of the sanction given in the New Testament to the Old, the former has two hundred and sixty DIRECT QUOTATIONS from the latter, about one half of which give the sense rather than the exact words; and the allusions are even more numerous, being upwards of three hundred and fifty.

The two Testaments contain but one scheme of religion; neither part can be understood without the other. It has but one subject from the beginning to the end; but our view grows clearer by progressive revelation. The truths of God are, in themselves, incapable of progress, but not the revelation; the progress is not in the truth, but in the clearness and impressiveness with which the Scriptures unfold it.

There may be passages in them the full meaning of which is not discovered, and which are perhaps reserved to extinguish some future heresy, or some yet unformed doubt, or to prove, by fresh fulfillment of prophecy, that the Bible came from God . Scripture is like the deep sea, beautifully clear, but unfathomably profound. It seems to say to its millions of students, "My treasures shall never be exhausted; put me not to the rack, but question me incessantly."

The richest treasures of God's Word will not be discovered unless the Holy Spirit himself become the revealer. Psa. cxix, 18; Luke xxiv, 45; John xvi, 13; I Cor. ii, 9-16. The last reference contains, in the original, the words, "which the Holy Ghost teacheth, explaining spiritual things to spiritual men." It is by his light that we become sure of the truth of the Bible or of the true meaning of particular passages. John vii, 17; I Cor. ii, 13. The Interpreter, in whose house Bunyan's Pilgrim saw so many wonders, is the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Scripture interprets Scripture. There is not an obscure passage, containing any important truth, which is not elsewhere explained.

The harmony and perfection of the Holy Scriptures are rendered more peculiarly evident by the constant reference of all their writers to our Lord Jesus Christ. Take him out of the Sacred Oracles and they become a jargon of unintelligible and discordant voices. Luke xxiv, 27, 44; John i, 45; Acts iii, 20-24; x, 43; xiii, 23-37; xvii, 23.

The Holy Scriptures, indited under the influence of Him to whom all hearts are known and all events foreknown, are adapted to profit mankind in every way and for all time. Rom. xv, 4; I Cor. x, 11; 2 Tim. iii, 15-17. They will always lead human progress. The fairest productions of wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands and lose their fragrance; but these undying flowers of Divine truth become still more beautiful beneath our gaze, daily emitting fresh odors and yielding new sweets, which he who tastes will desire to taste again, and he who tastes oftenest will relish the most. Psa. i, 2; cxix, 11, 97; Job xxiii, 12; Jer. xv, 16. In this respect the Scriptures resemble the garden of Eden, in which is found every tree that is pleasant to the sight or good for spiritual food, including the Tree of Life, given for the healing of the nations. Prov. iii, 13-18; Rev. xxii, 2.

Little do those who neglect their Bibles think what refined delights they lose by this turning away their eyes from the most sublime and entrancing object of contemplation that the whole universe affords.

In a museum in Dresden, among many other gems and treasures, may be seen a silver egg, which, when you touch a spring, opens and reveals a golden yolk. Within this is hid a chicken, whose wing being pressed, it also flies open, disclosing a splendid golden crown studded with jewels. Nor is this all; another secret spring being touched, hidden in the center is found a magnificent diamond ring. So it is with every truth and promise of God's word — a treasure within a treasure. The more we examine it the richer it becomes. But how few, comparatively, care to touch the springs as did the Psalmist. Psa. cxix, 96-100.

— from Binney's Theological Compend Improved by Amos Binney & Daniel Steele (1875). Section I, Chapter 2.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Whedon: The Witness of the Spirit

Guest blog by Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885):

Where God performs directly the work of justification and of regeneration, is it not to be expected that he will as directly give notice of so wonderful a mercy? And this thought suggests the reasonableness of the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit, directly testifying to us that we are born of God.

The witness of our own spirit is that self-judgment which we are rationally able to pronounce, in the light of consciousness and Scripture, that we are the children of God. This is a logical inference, drawn from the fruits we find, by self-examination, in our minds and external conduct.

But besides this, is there not felt in every deep religious experience, a simple, firm assurance, like an intuition, by which we are made to feel calmly certain that all is blessedly right between God and our own soul? Does not this assurance seem to come into the heart as from some outer source? Does it not come as in answer to prayer, and in direction, as if from him to whom we pray? Scripture surely makes the assuring and witnessing act of the Spirit to be as immediate and direct as the justifying or regenerating acts. Hereby, then, we have the witness of God's Spirit, concurrent with the witness of our own spirit, testifying to the work of our justification and adoption. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." Rom. viii, 16.

— Daniel D. Whedon, "The Doctrines of Methodism" Bibliotheca Sacra, April, 1862.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A New Principle of Life

Regeneration is the lodgement by the Holy Spirit of the new principle of life. This is love to God, which is the ruling motive of every genuine Christian. There is a radical and an essential difference between those who are born again and the best of those who lay claim to only natural goodness, a beautiful moral character revolving around self as a center. But the great transition from spiritual death to spiritual life does not make the child of God at once complete in holiness. The Holy Spirit in sanctification does not work magically, nor mechanically like a washing machine, but by the influence of grace, in accordance with the essential constitution of man, and in the way of a vital process, only by degrees completely renewing the soul.

— From: The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter XIV “The Spirit’s Work in Regeneration.”

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Results of Holiness are Desirable.

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

The results of holiness are desirable. These are matters of experience. They can never be appreciated without experience. We begin to realize them at conversion when the work of holiness begins. Happiness is felt which no tongue can describe, arising partly out of relief from the enormous burden of sin, from the deep consciousness of guilt, from a terrible sense of the wrath of God, from the awful fear of punishment — happiness produced in part by the contrast which the soul feels between a state of pardon and a state of condemnation. But, besides all this, there are the beginnings of a new and spiritual life. The present manifest workings of the Holy Spirit upon the heart and the feeling of inward renovation are all suited to the constitution of the soul. Where the power of inward depravity is broken, and the feelings, motives, and will are brought into harmony with the will of God, inward comfort and joy are the natural results. And there is happiness in faith; for we are formed to believe; — to trust implicitly in God; and the manifestation of a Redeemer, suits precisely this propensity to confide in a power able to support and to ransom us. This is the rest of the soul. In unbelief, it is "like the troubled sea," agitated, weary, away from home, incapable of repose. In faith, the soul is at home, and must be happy. And there is happiness in love. We were made to love. The malevolence of sin is its principal virus. No man can be happy with a consciousness of hate within him. Hatred to God, to man, even to an enemy, will make the noblest soul upon earth the home of wretchedness. Love harmonizes with a sense of duty — with the primary fundamental laws of the soul; and he who first feels the gentle, sweet, subduing power of love can hardly fail to rejoice. To all really converted we may say, "Whom [Jesus] having not seen ye love. In whom, though now ye see him not yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." And then there is bliss imparted — direct, rich beyond description, from the resident God within the converted soul, bliss which is designed to increase forever.

But what Christian does not know that this inward joy meets with sad interruptions from the rising power of inward depravity? This, it cannot be denied, disturbs the moral harmony upon which happiness depends, renders it irregular and uncertain in proportion to its amount and force. And to give permanence and certainty to the bliss of conversion, it must be totally removed. If it were to be always kept under, if as a source of temptation it were never to gain the mastery, the enjoyments of the soul, great as they are, would be far less than in a state of perfect purity. If salvation in part — if the beginnings of sanctification are capable of producing so much substantial joy; how much more may be realized when the work is complete? This is clear from a priori evidence, but experience must destroy every vestige of doubt. The deep, pervading, elevating and abiding joy in the state of entire sanctification is known, is matter of fact which both really and comparatively shows how desirable it is to be holy.

The power to glorify God is fearfully impaired by indwelling sin. The sad accusations of conscience, of history, and of revelation against believers, are in evidence of this. Sin utterly destroyed — the soul athirst for God and swallowed up in his love, and the divine glory then rises above every other consideration in earth or heaven. With what clearness and force can the soul wholly cleansed, glorify God by reflecting his image, by presenting truthfully his power to save, by showing the divine reality — the superhuman strength of experimental godliness. How conclusively it refutes all cavil in regard to experimental religious verities, silences infidelity, and dissipates fear by the indubitable evidence of fact which all men can see, and no man dispute. This is bringing glory to God by confounding his enemies, by demonstrating his claims and illustrating his living power to save the lost — a style of logic which transcends all the dictations of scholasticism, and leaves nothing to desire. And how potent is the arm which is thus held out to the feeble in virtue! What encouragement to the halting and despairing! The living demonstration of the power of grace lifts up the head that was bowed down to the dust, and the sweet, inspiring language of love invites the timid forward in the way to heaven, with a charm which multitudes are unable to resist. The work of God strengthens and revives; sinners are saved by scores and hundreds, by the living power of perfect love. We have but to suppose the whole church completely redeemed, and burning with love that casts out fear, to have some idea of the power in this experience to promote the glory of God. Who doubts — who can doubt that the aggressive energy of the church would then be in a high sense irresistible, and that the earth would soon "be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea?” The results of holiness! They can never be shown by rhetoric or logic. They cannot be appreciated without trial. We must feel the power of full salvation to know it. We must prove it when we are called to grapple with the monster death; — must enjoy it in the thrill of delight which heaven will bring to the enraptured soul; must see it in the glory that beams from the Triune God in that bright world; — must hear it in the songs and hallelujahs of redeemed ones, and angels, and seraphs, where "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are forever at rest." Desirable! Ah! if it be desirable to be relieved from all fear — to be elevated to a state of calm and permanent bliss — to be able to glorify God even in the fire — to be ready for death without a moment's warning — to live with God forever, it is desirable to be holy.

 — edited from The Central Idea of Christianity (2nd edition, 1867) Chapter 4.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Evangelical Perfection

Perfect love constitutes evangelical perfection, the sum of all duties, the bond which binds all the virtues into unity. As we stand midway between the perfect estate of paradise lost and of paradise regained, regretting the one and aspiring to the other, but excluded so long as we are in the flesh, our gracious God, through the mediation of Christ, commissions the Holy Ghost to come down and open the gates of a new paradise of love made perfect, love casting out all fear, love fully shed abroad in our hearts. Love is the fulfilling of the law. To fulfil is perfectly to keep, not the old Adamic law, but the law of the new Adam, the Lord from heaven. ‘Fulfil ye the law of Christ, the royal law of liberty.’ This law is graciously adapted to our diminished moral capacity, dwarfed and crippled by original and actual sin. All there is left of us after sin has spread its blight may be filled with the fullness of God. Every faculty may be energized, every capacity be filled, and every particle and fibre of the being be pervaded with the love of Christ, so that the totality of our nature may be subsidized in the delightful employment of love, attesting itself by obedience, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks. Says Wesley, ‘I know of no other Christian perfection.’ The hypercritical may criticize the term, and say that perfection cannot be predicated of anything human, and some advocates of entire sanctification may unwisely substitute other terms supposed to be less offensive, such as ‘the higher life,’ ‘the rest of faith,’ and ‘full trust,’ and other words which man's wisdom teacheth, but it will be found that they all fail to convey the exact and definite idea of the word ‘perfection’ which the Holy Ghost teacheth.

—from Mile-Stone Papers Chapter 3.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Editor's Note: Steele's Answers Has Run Its Course

I began this blog in December 2011 with the intention of blogging my way through the book Steele's Answers. That project is now completed.

It took longer than I thought it would — but, then, the project also got more complicated than I expected.

Daniel Steele was one of the 19th Century holiness writers I read in the earlier stages of my Christian journey, and I scanned many of his books long ago. There were only a few volumes that I had neither read nor scanned. One of these was an old book (published a few years before Dr. Steele's death) called Steele's Answers. I had acquired a copy from AbeBooks, but I found that its contents were not arranged into chapters. The book was composed of short Question and Answer items in no thematic order.

It occurred to me that a blog was the ideal way to present material like this. So, I began this project without having read the book in advance. It was my intention to blog each of the answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. As of last Saturday, that project has been completed.

As I began scanning, editing, and posting the items from Steele's Answers, however, I quickly discovered that the book wasn't very good. That is when I began adding posts from Dr. Steele's other writings, and occasional snippets from various holiness writers of his times.

So, the project became a little more than I had originally foreseen — and quite a bit better for that.

The book Steele's Answers is actually a good reflection of its times — and the beliefs and practices of the holiness-minded Methodists of that day. But, sadly, it is little more than that. The answers are brief and often not especially insightful.

I may return to this blog some day and post some more snippets from Dr. Steele's writings — or from some other of the holiness writers. Or, I may not. We will see.

But, for right now, I am done with this project.

— Craig L. Adams

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Age of Accountability

QUESTION: At what age do children become accountable to God?

ANSWER: Some much earlier than others. The dispensation of infancy in some cases is hardly reached at 21 years, and in idiocy is never reached. I am acquainted with a person who before the fourth birthday' had read the New Testament entirely through ­ an instance of early accountability.

Steele's Answers p. 271.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Preachers Condemning Other Preachers

QUESTION: Is it for the advancement of holiness for a preacher professing this grace to scandalize in his own pulpit a minister of the Gospel because he occasionally takes his open air recreation by playing lawn tennis?

ANSWER: "Love suffereth long and is kind, hopeth all things and thinketh no evil." We advise this preacher, who thinks he is appointed a judge over his fellow laborers in the Lord's vineyard, to make a thorough study' of Paul's eulogy of love, the 13th chapter of I Corinthians. Uncharitableness does not promote any good cause, especially Christian holiness.

Steele's Answers p. 271.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Synoptic Gospels

QUESTION: Why are the first three gospels called "synoptics?

ANSWER: Because they give an account of Christ's life, while John reports his extended addresses. He aims to prove that the Son is God as he asserts in the first verse. This makes his gospel a polemic kind of argumentative treatise. The other gospels are narrative, not laying down a proposition and demonstrating it.

Steele's Answers p. 271.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wives & the Sabbath

QUESTION: In the fourth commandment, Ex. 20:8-12, why is the wife omitted from the list of those who are forbidden to work on the Sabbath, neither "thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, etc."?

ANSWER: It is not because she must get breakfast, dinner and supper on the Sabbath, so that the saying is true, "woman's work is never done," but it is because she is included in the "thou" where she is regarded as sharing the hardship of the household on a level with her husband just as she is in the fifth commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother."

Steele's Answers p. 270.