Intro

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.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Conscience and the Work of Sanctification

It is interesting and instructive to note the relation of the Holy Spirit to conscience in the work of regeneration and sanctification. If man was created to be a temple of God, his spirit must be the holy of holies in which He dwells, and his conscience must be the Ark of the Covenant which carries His law. Sin defiled that sacred ark and rendered it offensive to the holy God. The scheme of redemption must have direct reference to the purification of the conscience. The writer to the Hebrews intimates that Mosaism "did not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience" ix. 9), and he exhorts the believer to "draw near, having his heart sprinkled from an evil (guilty) conscience" (x. 22). The conscience, relieved of guilt through faith in the atonement made by Christ, and ever after prompting to a life of obedience, is the spiritual organ in which the Holy Spirit evermore dwells, keeping watchful guard over the living law in the heart and constantly witnessing to the persevering believer that he is a child of God. Peace, the fruit of the Spirit, can dwell only with a "conscience void of offence." Holiness, the work of the Spirit, is also attested by conscience. "For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience that in holiness we behaved ourselves," etc. (II Corinthians i. 12, Revised Version).

— from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 19.



Friday, May 1, 2015

The Holy Spirit and Conscience

Prof. Whewell, in his "Moral Philosophy," asserts that every human volition expressive of a choice has a moral character which would be perceived by our moral sense were it sufficiently keen. This is a declaration that there are no acts morally indifferent, styled by the Greeks adiaphora, such as the choice of the color of a necktie, the length of an overcoat, or the kind of food I may order for my dinner at a restaurant. Most of us are so morally obtuse as to see no ethical quality in these choices, and are disposed to call him morbid and impractical who finds moral obligations in the selection of shoestrings. But we may be doing injustice to those rare consciences which have attained a more subtle moral discrimination than the multitude who laugh at scruples which they cannot appreciate. For it is possible that culture may impart such an insight into the tendencies of apparent trifles as to discern a disastrous moral outcome in the long run.

Paul asserts his love for the Hebrew nation, his "kinsmen according to the flesh," declaring that his conscience was "bearing him witness in the Holy Ghost." This strong asseveration implies an intimate relation between the Spirit and conscience. We may not be able to give a full and accurate statement of this relation. Among the self-evident truths with which the human mind is originally furnished is the distinction between right and wrong. The power to discover this distinction inheres in every sane mind. On questions relating to immutable morality all such minds agree in their decisions. Such questions are few, and theoretical rather than practical. They are not modified by circumstances. They are such as these: Is it right to hate a benefactor? Is it right to punish the innocent? Is it right to reward the guilty? Is it right to intend injustice to a fellow man? Is it right to violate my own sense of right? to dishonor a parent? to commit adultery? There can be but one answer to these questions. They are addressed to the intuitive sense of right and not to the understanding or practical judgment which modifies the decision. But when we ask the question, Is this accused man worthy of punishment? we have now to exercise our judgment and go through a course of reasoning before we can decide, and two perfectly conscientious persons may disagree in their verdict, because we are now in the region of mutable morality. Most of the moral questions in daily life are of this character. It is not enough to know that one man has killed another. I must take into account the circumstances, whether it was in self-defense when attacked by a robber, or a burglar by night was shot in the act of breaking into the dwelling. This sufficiently illustrates mutable morality.

I can but think that the philosophy of Lotze and others is true, that all the self-evident truths are in the last analysis the activity of the immanent God in the human spirit. Hence the moral intuitions, immutable and invariable, are the voice of the divine Spirit immanent in all men, irrespective of regeneration and the gracious indwelling of the Spirit. There is a sense in which the Spirit of God is upholding nature. Men are not conscious of this immanent substratum of their being. But when the Holy Spirit, as a gracious gift, is bestowed upon the believer, he is conscious of His presence within as was Paul. The effect is manifest not so much in the increase of the power of moral discrimination, though it does clarify the moral perceptions, as in the marvelous addition to the power that impels toward righteousness. For the conscience has a threefold power discrimination, impulse toward the right, and, after the act, approval or disapproval, according as the act is right or wrong. The gracious work of the Holy Spirit intensifies each of these functions, the second more manifestly than the first, and the third more than the second.

What effect does the fulness of the Spirit have in the decisions of practical questions in the province of mutable morality? We answer, it does not prevent errors in judgment and fallacies in logic. The Holy Spirit renders no one infallible in such matters. Yet He indirectly helps us by delivering us from the dominance of appetites and passions inimical to clearness of intellect and calmness of judgment. By inspiring in our hearts love to our neighbor as to ourselves, He strongly incites us to do perfect justice to him in our decision of questions involving his rights. Still the best of men and women who love God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves, may go astray in judgment without a loss of love. Hence, in applying their intellects to the construction of systems of theology, some have founded Calvinism with its five points, unconditional election, a limited atonement, irresistible grace, bound will, and the final perseverance of the saints; and others equally devout and scholarly have constructed Arminianism with its universal atonement conditionally applied, the free will, entire sanctification possible before death, and the peril of a total apostasy from the highest state of grace. George Whitefield preached the first of these doctrines and John Wesley the last. Both were filled with the Spirit and were burning as bright candies of the Lord. Both were used by the Spirit to preach the saving truths of the gospel in such a way as to save multitudes of souls.

— edited from The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 19.






Thursday, April 30, 2015

Melchizedek

QUESTION: Who was Melchizedek?

ANSWER: There have been many guesses, such as Shem, an angel, a Power, or influence of god; but the most judicious of moderns allege that he was an eminent descendant of Ham, discharging the functions of both priest and king. From the absence of any account of the origin of his priestly and regal offices, he is a good type of Christ's priesthood. See your Bible Dictionary.

Steele's Answers pp. 248, 249.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Divorce and Remarriage

QUESTION: Is it wrong for an innocent woman to marry again, whose husband procured her divorce by hiring a man to criminate her with false testimony? (2) For imaginary crime?

ANSWER: I believe that the innocent party to a marriage dissolved for the only cause allowed by Christ may marry again. In the sight of the human court this woman was the guilty party, but in the sight of God she is innocent. (2) If the court granted the divorce for a suspected crime when the wife was perfectly true to her nuptial vows, this case is like the first so far as regards her right to re-marry.

Steele's Answers p. 248.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Where is Hell?

QUESTION: Can hell be in the sun?

ANSWER: It can be anywhere there is a free moral agent persistently resisting the pressure of God's infinite and unchanging love till he has lost all capacity to respond thereto. Remorse is hell. Whether hell is a place as well as a state, I know not, and hope I never shall know. From the figurative language of Christ and his apostles nothing more with certainty can be inferred than that they meant to denote great and unending miseries.

Steele's Answers pp. 247, 248.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What Hindered the Israelites?

QUESTION: What hindered the march of the Israelites straight from Mt. Sinai the first year of their journey?

ANSWER: "Unbelief" (Heb. 4:6), "disobedience" (R. V.).

Steele's Answers p. 247.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Role of the Pastor (Ephesians 4:13)

QUESTION: Explain Eph. 4:13, "And he gave * * * some to be pastors * * * till we all attain unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

ANSWER:  Notice (1) the end and aim of the pastor is perfection of manhood of every believer, as evinced in the ideal of which Jesus Christ is the standard. (2) By the oneness of faith and knowledge; not two unities but one, faith merging into certain knowledge (epignosis). (3) "Attain" is in the aorist tense denoting a definite point reached, not at death, but in this life as the following verses plainly show. (4) Christ is at once the source of this perfection and the standard. We find in him a sufficiency for becoming as perfect in our measure as Christ is in his. "In him are ye made full" (Col. 2:10, R. V.).

Steele's Answers p. 247.

Friday, April 24, 2015

New Converts in Unspiritual Churches

It is a great mistake to bring a young convert into an unspiritual and worldly church. It is like laying a newborn babe on the breast of a dead mother for nutriment and growth. Hence we deprecate the promotion of conversions to increase the membership of a dead church. It is like enlarging a graveyard. A healthful revival always begins, not outside of the church, but within it. Zion must herself travail before living children are born. Some unwise pastors, in their eagerness to swell the number of church members, try to awaken sinners over the heads of a slumbering church, whom they dislike to awaken lest they should be displeased. Men awakened suddenly are usually not kindly disposed toward those who arouse them.

The result of many modern revivals is to multiply the number of those who are strangers to the direct witness of the Spirit to their adoption into the family of God by the new birth. Another result is that those who do receive this divine witness and retain Him intermittently find few to counsel and encourage them when ecstatic emotion subsides and they are called to walk by naked faith alone without feeling.

Our advice to all who have occasional gleams of sunshine through the rifted clouds, with intervals of doubt and incertitude, is, to ascertain the cause of this intermittency, and to remove it as soon as possible. For the cause is not, as some teach, in the sovereign will, but in ourselves. To this declaration the only exception is some physical condition into which we have been brought by divine Providence, such as a prostrated nervous system, or a concussion of the brain, depressing the mind and obstructing conscious access to Christ. The Christian, by thorough self examination, should assure himself that no sinful act has veiled his inward vision of God. Then he may patiently and believingly wait for the veil to be lifted again, and continue to be lifted so long as he has a firm grip on the promises of God. For where sin is absent the Spirit's witness is intermittent, because faith is wavering. Hence the remedy is a greater familiarity with the Word and a constant personal appropriation of the full heritage of the believer, especially the great gift of the Comforter. When the Third Person of the adorable Trinity is fully received, or, rather, when He fully possesses us, there is no more interruption of His testimony to our sonship to God. For He is now the abiding witness. Ecstatic joy may come and go as the tides ebb and flow, but peace and assurance abide forever, as Miss Havergal so truthfully sings:

"Like a river glorious
Is God's perfect peace."

We advise the believer who does not dwell on the bank of this beautiful river to gather together the promises of Christ respecting the abiding of the Paraclete found in His last address before His death, recorded in the 14th, 15th and 16th chapters of St. John, and the numerous references to the same glorious theme in St. Paul's epistles, and especially in the First Epistle of St. John, where the mutual abiding it taught, "God in us, and We in God." In such a spiritual life, filled and interpenetrated by God, there can be no hiatus, no vacuum, and no place for doubt.

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 16.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It Is Better Farther On

The doctrine of the immediate contact of God's Spirit with my spirit, without the medium of symbol or sacrament or absolving priest, does not rest upon one, two or three cardinal proof texts, but upon a wide variety of scriptural proofs, such as the communion of the Holy Spirit, the revelation of Christ within the soul, the knowledge of God, the strengthened form of the Greek epignosis, clear, certain, thorough and perfect knowledge of Christ, a favorite term with both Paul and Peter, together with plerophoria, full assurance, excluding all doubt. Count up the many times in John's first Epistle in which he says "we know," and add the stronger words, "ye all know," instead of "ye know all things" (I John ii. 20), found in the Revised Version margin and the text of Westcott and Hort, and our reader will see the broad basis on which this doctrine stands.

The direct witness of the Spirit is intermittent in most young Christians. Before the fulness of the Spirit is received there are only occasional gleams of light through the rifted clouds, followed by sunless intervals when doubts distract and harass the soul. The cry of such Christians when seeking the abiding witness, the indwelling Comforter, is voiced by Charles Wesley, who alone among all the versifiers of the eighteenth century gave due prominence to the Holy Spirit; "the author," says James Montgomery, "of a great number of the best hymns in the English or any other language." The superiority of the permanent to the transient witness of the Spirit is thus finely expressed:

"O that the Comforter would Come!
Nor visit as a transient guest,
But fix in me His constant home,
And take possession of my breast,
And make my soul His loved abode,
The temple of indwelling God."

This alternation of experience from sunshine to shadow affords occasion for the temptation to cast away our confidence in Christ and to abandon His service. Many yield to this suggestion of Satan and go back to the world instead of climbing to altitudes above the clouds. Some are told by stationary and retrograde Christians that they will never be so happy as they were when they first entered the kingdom of God. This dismal outlook upon the future intensifies the temptation with which they are wrestling. Hence It is not surprising that not a few young converts turn away from Jesus and walk no more with Him. They should have been told that in the normal Christian experience "it is better farther on." It is to be regretted that there are so few normal Christians who are at hand to give the discouraged convert this word of good cheer. Many professors of faith in Christ are living on so low a level amid the miasmas and fogs that they never have even a glimpse of the sunny spiritual uplands,

"Where dwells the Lord our Righteousness,
And keeps His own in perfect peace
And everlasting rest."

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 16.




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Earnest of the Spirit

"Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." — 2 Corinthians 1:22 KJV

From its very beginning the normal regenerate life is a continuous progression in spirituality, arithmetical if not geometrical, receiving with its widening capacities richer gifts of the wisdom and holiness of God.

"New births of grace new raptures bring;
Triumphant the new song we sing,
The great Renewer bless.
Darkness and dread we leave behind,
New light, new glory still we find,
New realms divine possess."

With respect to the obligation which the earnest of the Spirit lays on its recipient, it has been well said that it is a lien upon the future service of the receiver. If the service be unperformed, the earnest will be withdrawn; whereas if the service be lovingly rendered with the whole might of the heart, the measure of the gift will be filled up even to the sanctification of the whole body, soul and spirit. The Church in its infancy as to the realization of spiritual blessing, as mankind is in babyhood in its appreciation of electricity to human utilities. To what surpassing altitudes will the individual believer and the Church as a whole be lifted when the gift of the Spirit is fully realized and appropriated.

"Spirit, who makest all things new,
Thou leadest onward; we pursue
The heavenly march sublime.
'Neath Thy renewing fires we glow,
And still from strength to strength we go,
From height to height we climb."

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 16.