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 post particularly eloquent passages from Dr. Steele's other writings. Occasionally I post "guest blogs" from other holiness writers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Spirit of Truth

[The Holy Spirit] is also styled the Spirit of truth. "What is truth?" Jesus Christ declined to answer Pilate's question, not because truth is a simple term too difficult to define, but because the truth most needed by the selfish Roman procurator had a moral element which he had no capacity to receive. Christ could make blind eyes see, but He could not make a blind soul perceive while persisting in a course of sin. Moral truth can be apprehended only by an active moral sense in sympathy with it. To awaken this sense in dead souls was one part of the mission of Christ. The other part was to reveal the truth. "To this end was I born, that I should bear witness unto the truth." All saving truth is centered in His person. "I am the truth;" not abstract, but concrete, in form of facts adapted to man's faculties, or truths cast in a human mould. Truth is conformity to fact or reality. Eternal happiness is in building on the granite of reality and laying every hewn stone by the plum line of truth. There can be no other destiny for a character thus constructed. But sin is a lie. The motive to the first human sin was a lie. "Thou shalt not surely die." All the woes of the human generations and eternities are serpents coiled up in that delusion. Yet eternal well being is in Jesus Christ for every one of the serpent-deceived race who will receive Him by faith. For spiritual realities do not address our physical senses, but our faith only. The great danger lies in the pleasing delusions of sin and our proneness to embrace them in preference to sober truth.

I do not compliment my race nor do I misrepresent them when I say in the words of the great American showman,, "Men love humbug and sham." They delight in being beguiled and duped. This strange infatuation for what is false is what gives Satan his chief power for doing harm. For no truly wise man wants to foster illusions, They end in pain, and if persisted in they lead to eternal sorrow. No sane man ever chose naked evil or pain as an ultimate end. He always chooses what seems to him at the time a good, a means of happiness. The mind has the power to invest the chosen object with all the colors of the rainbow, though it be as black as midnight. The drunkard sees happiness in the cup where the serpent lies concealed. He could see the serpent if he wished. The worldling sees supreme good in millions of money, being wilfully blind to the day just ahead when he would give it all for "an inch of time" in which to prepare for eternity.

To dispel these illusions and break their power to decoy men to eternal ruin the Son of God came into the world. He revealed the real good, which is His Father's approval. His love is heaven. He disclosed the infallible standard by which to estimate things. But Jesus Christ, who is the incarnation of truth, has withdrawn His visible presence from our world. How can He now help us to divest ourselves of delusions destructive to our eternal blessedness? He has left a successor whose office it is to testify of Christ and to reveal Him and His standard of values to us. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. Without His agency the absent Christ would be forgotten and His power to sway each successive generation keeping abreast of the ages would have been entirely lost. Even the memory of Him would have perished, as President [William F.] Warren intimates in his hymn to the Holy Spirit:

"I worship Thee, O Holy Ghost,
I love to worship Thee;
My risen Lord for aye were lost
But for Thy company."

It is His office in respect to the truth revealed by Christ to make it real and vivid to men bewildered and seduced by falsehoods. Sinful pleasures sway them because they are near and present. The Holy Spirit brings eternal verities near and makes them outweigh the vanities of this life. He supplies a new measuring rod, a sense of eternity, and convicts the soul of folly in neglecting its happiness millions of ages hence. He lifts every man at some point in probation to a mount of vision above the mirage, where, as Longfellow says,

"Uplifted the land floats vague in the ether;
Ships and the shadows of ships hang in the motionless air."

In this golden hour the disenchanted soul freed from all illusions gets a view of realities unfolded by the Spirit of truth. Happy indeed is he if from that view his future life is confirmed to those realities.

The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 1.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Insulting the Spirt of Grace (Hebrews 8:21)

How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? — Hebrews 8:21 (ASV).

In the description of the guilt incurred by an apostate from Christ to Judaism is found another phrase descriptive of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of grace (Heb. x. 29). If this is not the irremissible sin, it is sin at its climax. The Son of God is trampled down with ruthless scorn and hatred, His "precious blood" is counted as that of either an ordinary man or that of a guilty criminal. Then the description reaches the summit of wickedness, the sin of all sins, the irremissible sin — "and insulted the Spirit of grace." Most modern exegetes say that the Spirit is thus called because He is the gift of grace. But by referring to Zechariah xii. 10 we find the expression "Spirit of grace and supplication," evidently implying that the Spirit is "the source of grace" and the inspirer of all true prayer (Delitzsch). [The Spirit] is the source of grace not only in His own person, but He is the channel through which the love of the Father and the grace of His Son are poured upon penitent believers.

The importance of the Spirit's office in human salvation cannot be overestimated. The Father's love and the Son's self-sacrifice in the scheme of redemption are ineffectual without the Spirit's personal agency in applying the provisions of salvation. He is the appointed and indispensable almoner of the divine bounty and messenger of the King's pardon. If a city has a bureau of charities, its poor who proudly refuse its help and rely on the general benevolence of the city government, and starve because of their folly, are no more unreasonable than are those who admit that they are sinners, but are trusting in the fatherhood of God for forgiveness, ignoring His bureau of pardon, through the mediation of His Son, as administered by His accredited commissioner, the Spirit of Grace. Many Christians who are almost destitute of Spiritual strength might become strong through the more abundant life which Christ came to bestow, if they would honor with an intelligent faith that personality whom He has appointed as the Lord and giver of life.

The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 1.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Testament Names for the Holy Spirit

When the time came for Christ to depart He introduced a new name to designate the Spirit whom He would send to continue His work — the Paraclete, a term used only four times in the four Gospels, and all of them in the consolatory address in John xiv.-xvi. and translated "Comforter," strengthener, from the Latin confortare, to strengthen. In I John ii. 1 it is translated "advocate" and is descriptive of Christ, our intercessor in heaven. Paraclete (παράκλητος) is a Greek word signifying either, passively, the near called, as an assistant, monitor, teacher and guide; or, actively, the near caller, calling the believer near to God, or giving access to Him by inspiring confidence and strength. He is also called the Spirit of truth or reality, because He is the inspirer of revealed truth, which He makes blessedly real to the believer in Christ.

Twice He is styled the Spirit of grace, since He is the dispenser of the divine favor to all men, either by conviction of sin in order to bless them by turning them away from their iniquities, or by imparting to believers spiritual life, witnessing to their adoption and perfecting their holiness.

He is called also the Spirit of supplication because He teaches us how to pray and for what to pray; the Spirit of revelation because He reveals Christ to the eye of faith; the Spirit of wisdom because He imparts wisdom; the Spirit of adoption because He certifies the believer's sonship; and the Spirit of Christ because He was sent by the Father through the mediation of the Son. He is called the Spirit of God because He is one with God in His nature. This leads us to the scriptural proofs that the Holy Spirit is consubstantial with God and is a person. The two doctrines of the personality and the divinity of the Spirit go together. The identity of God and the Spirit of God runs through the Holy Scriptures. Whoever the Spirit is, there is no distinction between Him and God, just as there is no distinction between the man and the spirit of the man (I Cor. ii. 11).

The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 1.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Old Testament Names for the Holy Spirit

The first name that is found in the Bible is Ruach Elohim (רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים), the Spirit of God. He moved upon the face of the waters. The word spirit literally signifies breath. All nations express things immaterial by the use of the most subtle material representatives. The best symbol for the invisible, immaterial thinking agent in man is the wind or breath, that kind of matter which is the thinnest and has least of the grosser elements. Says Martin Luther: "They who desire to speak of God without these material envelopes strive to scale heaven without ladders. For it is necessary, when God reveals Himself to us that He should do this through some veil or kind of wrapper, and say, 'Lo, under this involucrum, or cover, you certainly grasp me.'" The Old Testament form of statement is not that God is Spirit, but rather that He has the Spirit and sends Him forth out of Himself.

This may have suggested to the thoughtful Hebrew that the Spirit is God and is a personality distinct from Him from whom He proceeds.

The only other Old Testament designation is the Holy Spirit. This occurs only in Ps. li. 11 and Isa. lxiii. 10, 11. In the New it is very common. The adjective holy cannot be distinctive of the quality of purity which is not found in equal degree in the Father and the Son. Both are holy. Hence, as it is not descriptive of an attribute peculiar to the Spirit, we infer that it points to the peculiar office of the Spirit, in the redemptive scheme, to make men holy. The Holy Spirit, then, is the scriptural term for the Sanctifier, a term not found in the scriptures as a designation of the Spirit.

Holy Spirit is a name in English preferable to Holy Ghost, for the reason that words like men flourish and decay. Ghost and ghostly were once dignified words, as "ghostly adviser" for spiritual adviser. But these words have become degraded so that it would sound strange to us and repulsive to hear the words "the Ghost of God." Hence we commend the American revisers for substituting uniformly Holy Spirit for Holy Ghost.

— edited from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 1.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Seventh Day

QUESTION: In Gen. 2:2 why is it said that "God ended his work on the seventh day," and then follows the contradictory statement that he rested on that day?

ANSWER: It is the general voice of the Scriptures that the whole creation was finished in six days. See Ex. 20:11 and 31:17. There is a good reason for the opinion of A. Clarke that this is a mistake of a transcriber who read the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the seventh, which very closely resembles it. The Jews did not have our nine digits but used letters instead. The Greek version, made about 200 B. C., and quoted in the New Testament more than 1,000 times, reads, "God ended his work on the sixth day." Thus reads also the Samaritan Hebrew, and the Syriac version.

Steele's Answers p. 181.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The False Christs

QUESTION: What are the principal false Christs?

ANSWER: A Jew called Simeon assumed the title BarCochba, Son of the Star, from the prophecy of Balaam, cut a great swath in Judea, in A. D. 131-135 took Jerusalem, defeated the Romans in battle, was finally conquered and beheaded by Severus. Another was Serenus of Syria, about 720 A. D., followed by David Alrui (Alroy) about 1150; then came Abraham Abulafia of Spain, born in 1240; followed by Sabbathai Zebi, born in Smyrna in 1626, styling himself king of kings of whom "miracles" were related. From Poland, Hamburg and Amsterdam treasures were poured into his court; young men and women prophesied before him, some refused to till the fields, saying, "We will pay no more tribute, our Messiah is come." He was conquered by the Turks and compelled to choose between death and Islam. Although he chose the latter, many still believed in him, and, after his death as a professed Mohammedan, they insisted that he would rise from the dead and liberate Palestine. The next pretender was Jacob Frank, who lived in royal state in Austria. After burning the Talmud in public he ended his career as a Roman Catholic. The gullibility of the Jew is accounted for when we consider the dreadful oppressions they have suffered and the daily prayer for the coming of the Messiah, which every Israelite is required to offer. The false Christ which Christians in our times are setting up is Liberalism, so called, which pays divine honors to a false concept of Jesus Christ as the Revealer of the love of God, ignoring his holiness, justice and truth and disobeying his law. They are described and their doom is foretold in Matt. 7:22-24. "Many will say unto me in that day," etc.

Steele's Answers pp. 180, 181.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Justification and Regeneration

QUESTION: Are justification and regeneration always concomitants?

ANSWER: It would not be safe for God to do a work for us without at the same time doing a work within. This unsafe thing every priest does who pronounces absolution, for he cannot get inside of the person and create him anew. It is true that some time may elapse after the burden of guilt is consciously removed — the real spiritual birthday — before there is a joyful assurance through the Spirit's testimony to adoption.

Steele's Answers pp. 179, 180.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Meek Inherit the Earth

QUESTION: In what sense are the meek to inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5)?

ANSWER: This is quoted from Ps. 37:11, and is thus translated in the Revised Version, "But the meek shall inherit the land" (Canaan) here used as an ancient popular antitype to the experience of entering into the Messiah's spiritual kingdom. This "land" from which the unbelievers were excluded in Num. 14:23 had already in Ps. 95:11 become "rest," emblematic of Christian peace, as in Heb. 3:18, and 4:1-9. It was at first necessary to use Hebrew phrases to express Christian ideas, for they could be intelligibly indicated in no other way to the Jews. Wesley says "the meek shall hereafter possess the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." In his note on Rev. 21:2, he says, "The new heaven and the new earth, and the new Jerusalem, are closely connected.. This city is wholly new, belonging not to this world, not to the millennium, but to eternity."

Steele's Answers p. 179.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Did Paul Expereince the Witness of the Spirit?

QUESTION: When did Paul receive the witness of the Spirit of adoption?

ANSWER: The first mention of the Holy Spirit in relation to him is in Acts 9:17, where Ananias declares the purpose of his mission to Saul, "that thou might be filled, with the Holy Spirit." The first offices of the Spirit to a penitent sinner trusting in Christ is to impart spiritual life and to witness his adoption into the family of God and to begin his sanctification by infusing the love of Christ. These are the blessings Saul received in Damascus. Some think he then and there received a full-fledged Christian character including entire sanctification ensphered in perfect love. But it is far more probable that this was a subsequent experience. Doubtless he advanced gradually from childhood to youth and, then to manhood in Christ. Entire sanctification requires a stronger faith than a penitent sinner can exercise, and, moreover, it is a gift for which he feels no special need, while overwhelmed with guilty fear in view of his past sins. In Gal. 1:15, 16, he speaks of two experiences, (1) called through his (God's) grace, and (2) the inward revelation of the Son, not to be confounded with the outward revelation of Christ in the sky, which blinded his eyes. This inward revelation could be made only to the inner eye purged from the film of sin as in the sixth beatitude, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In John 14:21 to those who already love Christ, and to them only, does he promise to manifest himself. Only these can receive this wonderful manifestation. Probably Saul, while studying his three years' course in theology in Arabia, under the tuition of the Paraclete, became capable of receiving this inward revelation.

Steele's Answers pp. 177, 178.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Faith and Prayer

QUESTION: What is the relation of faith to prayer?

ANSWER: It is both the cause and the effect. It is the cause, for no one would ask God if he did not believe that he would give. Then, again, answered prayer awakens a stronger faith for greater blessings. Thus believing and receiving we go hand over hand up the rope of salvation let down from heaven to earth.

Steele's Answers p. 177.