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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Personal Testimony

I was born into this world in Windham, N. Y., October 5, 1824; into the kingdom of God in Wilbraham Mass., in the spring of 1842. I could never write the day of my spiritual birth, so gradually did the light dawn upon me and so lightly was the seal of my justification impressed upon my consciousness. This was a source of great trial and seasons of doubt in the first years of my Christian life. I coveted a conversion of the Pauline type. My call to the ministry was more marked and undoubted than my justification. Through a mother's prayers and consecration of her unborn child to the ministry of the Word I may say, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that should bear witness to the truth." My early religious experience was variable, and for the most part consisted in "Sorrows and sins, and doubts and fears, a howling wilderness."

The personality of the Holy Spirit was rather an article of faith than a joyful realization. He had breathed into me life, but not the more abundant life. In a sense I was free, but not "free indeed"; free from the guilt and dominion of sin, but not from strong inward tendencies thereto, which seemed to be a part of my nature. In my early ministry, being hereditarily a Methodist in doctrine, I believed in the possibility of entire sanctification in this life instantaneously wrought. How could I doubt it in the light of my mother's exemplification of its reality? I sought quite earnestly, at times, but failed to find any thing more than transient uplifts from the dead level. One of these, in 1852, was so marked that it delivered me from doubt of the question of regeneration. These uplifts all came while earnestly struggling after entire sanctification as a distinct blessing. But when I embraced the theory that this work is gradual, and not instantaneous, these blessed uplifts ceased. For, seeing no definite line to be crossed, my faith ceased to put forth its strongest energies. In this condition, a period of fifteen years, I became exceedingly dissatisfied and hungry. God had something better for me. He saw that so great was my mental bewilderment, through the conflict of opinion in my own denomination relative to Christian perfection, that I would flounder on, "in endless mazes lost," and never enter "The land of corn and wine and oil," unless He, in mercy, should lead me by another road than that which has the fingerboard set up by John Wesley. I was led by the study of the promised Paraclete to see that He signified far more than I had realized in the new birth, and that a personal Pentecost was awaiting me. I sought in downright earnestness. Then the Spirit uncovered to my gaze the evil still lurking in my nature; the mixed motives with which I had preached, often preferring the honor which comes from men to that which comes from God.

I submitted to every test presented by the Holy Spirit and publicly confessed what He had revealed and determined to walk alone with God rather than with the multitude in the world or in the Church. I immediately began to feel a strange freedom, daily increasing, the cause of which I did not distinctly apprehend. I was then led to seek the conscious and joyful presence of the Comforter in my heart. Having settled the question that this was not merely an apostolic blessing, but for all ages -- "He shall abide with you forever" -- I took the promise, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." The "verily" had to me all the strength of an oath. Out of the "whatsoever" I took all temporal blessings, not because I did not believe them to be included, but because I was not then seeking them. I then wrote my own name in the promise, not to exclude others, but to be sure that I included myself. Then, writing underneath these words, "Today is the day of salvation," I found that my faith had three points to master -- the Comforter, for me, now. Upon the promise I ventured with an act of appropriating faith, claiming the Comforter as my right in the name of Jesus. For several hours I clung by naked faith, praying and repeating Charles Wesley's hymn "Jesus, thine all-victorious love shed in my heart abroad."

I then ran over in my mind the great facts in Christ's life, especially dwelling upon Gethsemane and Calvary, His ascension, priesthood, and all-atoning sacrifice. Suddenly I became conscious of a mysterious power exerting itself upon my sensibilities. My physical sensations, though not of a nervous temperament, in good health, alone, and calm, were indescribable, as if an electric current were passing through my body with painless shocks, melting my whole being into a fiery stream of love. The Son of God stood before my spiritual eye in all His loveliness. This was November 17, 1870, the day most memorable to me. I now for the first time realized "the unsearchable riches of Christ." Reputation, friends, family, property, everything disappeared, eclipsed by the brightness of His manifestation. He seemed to say, "I have come to stay." Yet there was no uttered word, no phantasm or image. It was not a trance or vision. The affections were the sphere of this wonderful phenomenon, best described as "the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. It seemed as if the attraction of Jesus, the loadstone of my soul, was so strong that it would draw the spirit out of the body upward into heaven. How vivid and real was all this to me! I was more certain that God loved me than I was of the existence of the solid earth and of the shining sun. I intuitively apprehended Christ. This certainty has lost none of its strength and sweetness after the lapse of more than seventeen years. Yea, it has become more real and blissful. Nor is this unphilosophical, for Dr. McCosh teaches that the intuitions are capable of growth.

I did not at first realize that this was entire sanctification. The positive part of my experience had eclipsed the negative, the elimination of the sin principle by the cleansing power of the Paraclete. But it was verily so. Yet it has always seemed to me that this was the inferior part of the great blessing of the incoming and abiding of the whole Trinity. John 14:23.

After seventeen years of life's varied experiences, on seas sometimes very tempestuous, in sickness and in health, at home and abroad, in honor and dishonor, in tests of exceeding severity, there has come up out of the depths of neither my conscious nor unconscious being any thing bearing the ugly features of sin, the willful transgression of the known law of God. All this time satan's fiery darts have been thickly flying, but they have fallen harmless upon the invisible shield of faith in Jesus Christ. As to the future, "I am persuaded that He is able to keep my deposit until that day."

— from "A Brief Autobiography."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Authority and Faith

"Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." — John vi. 68

Our text demonstrates that a craving for authority in respect to religious questions is natural to the human soul and that Christianity is more than a system of abstract truth addressed to the reason, — it is a series of facts to be apprehended by faith. We hunger for certainty in matters of such vital interest and of such personal importance. The interests are of too great a magnitude to permit us to rest at ease without a clear knowledge of our relations to eternity, and without all possible safeguards about our future well-being. Uncertainty brings suspense and fear. How natural the inquiry, is there no person who knows how to answer our religions inquiries, whose word is of sufficient weight to give to our anxious souls the confidence and security of certainty? How reasonable, if such a person should appear on earth and display undoubted credentials, unrolling his commission written by the finger of God and enstamped with heaven's broad seal of miracles, that all mankind should hail him with joy, and hasten to sit at his feet, to drink in his words, and to submit to his guidance, laying their hands in his, saying, Lead thou me, O thou unerring guide, for I am blind. What a value in one word coming down out of heaven direct, distinct and authoritative on a question of immediate personal interest to us all — an interest so broad that it sweeps in the whole of the endless future of the soul.

See the perplexed Grecian moralist in his cell at Athens groping for light on the destiny of man, and finding no clear and steady blaze flaming up from that heap of subtle reasonings, fables and traditions which Socrates piled up to illumine his own passage to the tomb and to cheer his lingering, weeping and inconsolable friends. How he cried out for a theios logos (θεῖος λόγος), a divine word, to shoot its steady radiance athwart their darkness, and to give the rest of assurance to their weary spirits.

Such a divine Logos have we, who is the true light coming into the world enlightening every man. He hath brought life and immortality to light. He did not originate the doctrine, but he established it on the basis of his own authority. No wonder that Peter refused to abandon this light. Peter, who had left his fishing nets to go spellbound after Jesus, Peter who had beheld the miracles wrought by his word, who had listened entranced to his revelation of things unseen, and who had gazed upon the transcendent glory and majesty of his Master transfigured on the mount. This thirst for authority cannot be suppressed. It is ineradicable in the human soul. If men are deprived of the infallible word they must be provided with an infallible substitute. Hence Rome sways the rod of spiritual power over millions because she professes to speak with authority. Even skeptics themselves, who contemn the authority of Jesus as derogatory to the dignity of true manhood, distrusting the authority of reason, unconsciously lean upon one another. Voltaire, Paine, Parker and Ingersoll, each in his respective age does all the thinking, and the crowd of skeptics of feebler wing or weaker brain follow cravenly in their track. Thus our boasted freethinkers think in the chains of a fallible human authority. Said a puzzled liberalist when asked to reconcile the conflict between Jesus Christ's pretensions and his moral excellence, "I must visit Theodore and ask him how he gets along with this difficulty."

Jesus Exultant Chapter 9.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Natural Religion Fails to Discover Forgiveness

At another vital point do all systems of natural religion fail utterly in affording to the guilty soul the assurance of forgiveness. Here is a practical test. Does my religion save me now from the guilt, the pollution and the dominion of sin? Go and question nature until you are gray. Her lips will ever be dumb. Though Bishop Butler may find in the constitution and course of nature some faint analogies which may confirm the doctrine of forgiveness when it has been once revealed, there is not in the whole range of nature sufficient light for the discovery and demonstration of this cardinal evangelical truth.

The analogies of suffering invariably treading upon the heels of violated natural law with no provision in nature to arrest the penal consequences, strongly incline men to believe that punishment must inevitably, without an exception, follow the transgression of moral law. Hence paganism teaches that the penalty follows the sin as surely as the cart-wheel rolls in the footsteps of the ox. Socrates was so impressed with the cardinal doctrine of natural religion, that God is just, that he doubted whether God could pardon sin. The semi-paganism of the liberalists and free-religionists teaches the absolute impossibility of the pardon of sin. In their estimation it would be plucking down the pillars of God's throne and subverting the moral order of the universe. But turn to Christianity and you find that not only forgiveness through faith in the atoning Savior, but also the knowledge of forgiven sin, is its grand and glorious peculiarity. From the day the apostles went forth preaching to guilty men the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins till this hour, there have not been absent from the earth witnesses to the truth of this doctrine. Millions have crossed the flood, and millions are crossing now who can say, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Jesus Exultant Chapter 9.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Natural Religion Fails in the Face of Death

In all minds which have not been spoiled by sophistry or puffed up by false philosophy and self-conceit, there is a spontaneous shrinking back from treading alone the unexplored continent of religious truth and a crying out for a guide."Who will show us any good?" Socrates, pronounced by the Delphic Oracle the wisest man of his generation, to whom we shall again refer in the present discussion as the best representative of the entire heathen world, on the day of his death, sitting upon his bed in his prison, when about to enter upon his argument for the immortality of the soul, exhorted his friends "to supplicate the gods for help while we take hold of one another's hands and enter this deep and rapid river." Deep and rapid indeed is the river of theological inquiry without the aid of revelation. Who feels competent, without supernatural light, to give a satisfactory answer to that solemn question which arises in every sober mind:

"Soon as from earth I go,
What will become of me?"

Can any of us lay aside our Bibles, close our eyes to the life-giving words of Jesus, and then avow our ability to answer the cry of universal humanity:

"Who can resolve the doubt
That tears my anxious breast,"

by drawing aside the veil from that "land of deepest shade," and pointing out its crystal rivers, its sunny vales, its fragrant groves, and giving to each eager soul a title deed to some choice spot for a future home?

We know that a school of theological teachers has recently sprung up who magnify man's religious instincts. These teach that revelation is a superfluity; that every man has within himself all resources for the discovery of essential religious truth; that the Bible has been rendered obsolete by the progress of the race in theological science; that every soul is thrown upon its own spiritual instincts and impulses for guidance. As certain authors publish books entitled "Every Man His Own Lawyer," "Every One His Own Physician," so those professed religious teachers would have every one his own revelation, every one his own inspiration; or as others devise traps for the simple called "French Without a Master, in Six Lessons," "Latin Without a Master, in Four Lessons," so these apostles of the new dispensation of "the absolute religion" would deceive their fellow-men with the finely sounding advertisement, "Religion Without Master, in No Lessons."

Let us institute some tests of the religion of nature. What headway does the human soul make in following its own light? How does it solve the religious problems which baffled the skill of all the centuries before Jesus Christ came? How is future happiness to be secured? The religionist answers, By living righteously, doing good to man and loving God. But to find his answer he has committed a stupendous plagiarism on the Bible. He has gone to it to awaken his religious instincts at this great center of light and life, and then, like all thieves, he denies and decries the source of his plundered treasure. If the human soul has no need of going outside of itself to answer all religious questions satisfactorily, if it has no occasion for using the self-distrustful words of Peter, "To whom shall we go?" the best way of testing the question is to examine those who have never seen the inspired Word, just as we would test the brilliancy of some new lighting material by carrying the lamp out of the sunlight into the darkness. Go away with me for a moment out of the resplendence of revelation in to the darkness of heathenism, and see how wisely, how purely men live. Here is a whole nation offering worship to an ox, an onion, a lizard. Egypt was at that time the most cultivated nation on the earth. The religious instincts of another people offer human slaughter for praise, rear pyramids of skulls to secure the divine favor, toss infants to crocodiles and burn widows on huge funeral piles, and grind to powder the flesh and bones of living men beneath its bloody Juggernauts. The ancient Babylonians religiously required every virgin to surrender in Phallic worship that which is of greater value than all the gold and diamonds in South Africa; while the Thugs of India actually waylay and murder as acts of religious duty. Dimly indeed burns the flame of spiritual instinct, and widely do they wander who follow its flickering and uncertain light.

Death is a just ordeal of a religious system. How does the religion of spiritual instinct enable men to die? We are told that Theodore Parker, the great advocate of the absolute religion, as he styled it, lay down in Florence upon his dying couch in impenetrable gloom which his cold, barren and Christless theology had no power to dissipate. They who have advanced no farther than the religion of nature universally die without triumph. Said Socrates, that greatest pagan moralist, before alluded to, as the hour for drinking the hemlock approached, "The swan as it sees its end approaching, begins its most melodious song, and floating down the river charmed by its own music, meets death with dignity and composure. Man," said the dying philosopher, "should die with as much cheerfulness as the bird." "But," replied one of his disciples, uttering the feelings of the whole heathen world, "death is a terror to us. It unmans us and fills us with dreadful fears. We cannot die thus. We have no swan's song with which to float down the river of life into the boundless sea of eternity." "Go, then," said that wisest pagan, with a sagacity amounting almost to divine inspiration, "travel through all lands, spare no toil, no expense, that ye may find the song which can charm away the fear of death." But those poor pagan Greeks, amid the splendors of that era of literature and art, sought in vain for the swan's song of victory over the fear of death. But four hundred years afterward the wondering shepherds caught from the glad angels a part of that song. Behold, we bring you glad tidings of great joy: to-day is born a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. But the full song was first taught to mortals when Jesus opened his lips at Lazarus' tomb, saying, "I am the resurrection and the life, "and only a few years afterward there floated from the grated window of a prison in Rome the music of this complete and triumphant swan's song: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight .... Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness!" Through all the centuries of the Christian church the triumphant deaths of millions with this song upon their tongues have attested the divinity of the gospel, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory." At last Charles Wesley, in a moment of more than poetic inspiration, put the swan's song of the believer into a sacred lyric fit for a seraphic lyre:

"Jesus, the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
'Tis music in the sinner's ears,
'Tis life, and health, and peace."

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 9.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Father, Son, and Spirit

The best statement of the Scriptures about God is that He is one in nature with a threefoldness which we call personality, that He has a Son who is not a creature, whose existence is grounded not in the divine will, as our existence is, but His being is grounded in the divine nature so that He has all the attributes of God. His sonship, dates not from His human birth but from eternity, being the I AM before Abraham was born (John viii. 58, Revised Version, margin). The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, having their nature; the Father is self-existent. The Son's being is grounded in the Father, and the Spirit's existence rests on the Father and the Son from whom He proceeds.

The Trinity, dimly disclosed in the Old Testament, is clearly revealed in the New Testament after Pentecost, when the Third Person came with power as the successor of the Son in the administration of the kingdom of God on the earth.

The succession, which is indicated by the words Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is a philosophical progress and culmination. God reveals Himself to all men in His Son; He communicates Himself in the Holy Spirit to all who believe in the Son; He reveals Himself to man's intellect that through it He may transform the heart and make it a partaker of the divine nature, not divine as He is divine, but holy as He is holy. This succession also intimates the order of the dispensations unfolded on the earth.

We have every reason to believe that the dispensation of the Spirit is the last and most glorious era of Christianity on the earth, that the second coming of Christ will be to judge the world and wind up human history on this planet, and not to inaugurate the dispensation of Christ's bodily presence again with its limitations to one place at the same time. We do not believe that the order of progress is to be reversed after reaching its climax in the dispensation of the Paraclete, who is to abide with believers forever. It is certain that faith in an invisible personality is a higher exercise and more blessed than faith in a visible manifestation. This is hinted at by the risen Christ to Thomas, "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." We are living in the best era for spiritual development which this world will ever see — the era of Pentecost. Let us make the best possible use of it and profit by its wonderful privileges, the indwelling Comforter bringing the Father and the Son to abide in us forever.

Just note the gradation of honor in respect to the dwelling of God among men: 1st. One nation was specially honored when Jehovah made His dwelling in the midst of the camp and the pillar of cloud and of fire betokened the presence of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. 2d. God selects one human body and soul for His abode; for in Jesus dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And, lastly, we reach the climax, the whole Trinity dwelling in every true believer who evinces perfect love by unhesitating obedience. This eclipses all the millennial glories this side of the glassy sea, the new heaven and new earth.

Hence the reasonableness of our conclusion that the descent of the Holy Ghost is the completion of Christian theology, and His indwelling in the believer is the crowning honor and blessedness. "In the person of Christ," says Joseph Parker, "'truth was outward, visible and most beautiful; in the person of the Holy Spirit truth is inward, spiritual, all-transfiguring. By the very necessity of the case the bodily Christ could be but a passing figure, but by a gracious mystery He caused Himself to be succeeded by an eternal Presence, 'even the Spirit of truth, which abideth forever.'"

— edited from The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 2.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Holy Spirit and the Trinity

The doctrine of the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit is intimately connected with the most mysterious yet most practical fact of revelation — the fundamental doctrine of the Trinity of God. It is mysterious because it is above reason, not contrary to it, and lies wholly in the realm of faith. It is practical because it is insepererably involved in all true Christian worship and is the maintaing of all effective evangelism. It is fundamental because its removal from the Christian system subverts every distinctive doctrine. It protects all such truths, especially the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the efficacy of the atonement. Unitarians have been accustomed to say that Philosophy sustains their denial of the Trinity. This is a great mistake. The latest utterance of philosophic theism is that the Unitarian conception of Deity is utterly inadequate to preserve His personality and moral attributes from degenerating into naturalism and pantheism, and that the Trinitarian conception is the only effectual safeguard against such an outcome and the only rock on which reason can securely rest.

I will briefly show you the logic of this movement of modern philosophy towards Trinitarianism. The advance movement of thought in this century, far from expelling the Trinity from its place in the mind of Christendom, has caused it to strike deeper root and grow with fresh vigor.

This is the argument in a nutshell: Love, the basis of all God's moral attributes, cannot exist in that simplicity, that abstract self identity of the divine nature which is the essence of the Unitarian conception. Why? If God existed from eternity before He created a person on whom His love could pour itself, He was from eternity having the active, diffusive principle of love in His bosom, the very substance and substratum of His being, with no object to love. This is unthinkable! Eternal love without a personal object! Hence philosophy must either deny the existence of love in God, together with all its manifestations in the forms of holiness, justice, wisdom and truth, or supply such an object from eternity. This first alternative divests God of all His moral attributes and takes us more than half way to atheism. The first verse of St. John's Gospel supplies an object of the Father's love before His first creative act: "In the beginning (from eternity) was (not was created) the Logos, and the Logos was with God (face to face is the idea in the Greek), and the Logos was God." This Logos became flesh, and while tabernacling in humanity had a memory which went back beyond the creation of the universe to "the glory which He had with the Father before the world was." In these words of unsurpassed majesty, which no creature ever dared to use, we have an enlargement and enrichment of the concept of Deity in striking contrast with what Phillips Brooks called "the meagre God of Unitarianism," a simple, abstract unity, a mere cause or primal force. Hence the necessity of at least a dualism of persons in the divine nature to sustain the completeness of the divine life and character.

The New Testament reveals such a dualism and adds the Third Person as essential to the perfection of full-orbed divinity. Hence we see that the Trinity is not a doctrine which has been arbitrarily imposed upon faith by external authority overriding reason, but it is one which accords with reason, after it is revealed, and explains and supports Christian experience. Every evangelical believer who through faith in Christ by the illumination and impulse of the Holy Spirit has had conscious access to the Father resulting in forgiveness and communion, has tested the doctrine of the Trinity and found it true. Its deniers must reckon with the best philosophy representing the demands of the highest intelligence; then they must convince of their stupendous delusion the millions who have through faith in the divine Christ experienced the witness of the Spirit attesting their adoption and assuring them of forgiveness. But every growing Christian verifies the truth of the Trinity every day of his life. He comes to the Father through the mediation of the Son and receives the Holy Spirit as the comforter, helper, guide, light, life and wellspring of joy, just as every astronomer proves the truth of the Copernican theory of the solar system by using it and arriving at results experimentally verified by the use of his telescope, "Through him (Christ) we (Jews and Gentiles) both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father" ( Eph. ii. 18).

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 2.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Spirit Brings the Bible's Message to Life

The Spirit gives reality to the Old Testament, the prophetic record, and to the New Testament, the historic record of Christ's life. He impresses upon us the fact that Jesus is living and present — that He is what He was. His birth, His sermon on the mount, His parables, His miracles, His farewell discourse, His high-priestly prayer, His words on the cross, to Spirit-illumined souls do not belong to a distant antiquity, but are perpetually as fresh as the morning paper. The Spirit telegraphs the Gospels across the chasm of centuries and millenniums as recent news from heaven. What are you so greedily reading, grandpa?" said a child to a Bible-studying saint of four score years intently reading the word of God. "News," was the reply. To the spiritual mind Christ is present giving life to His words spoken eighteen hundred years ago. Thus He verifies His own promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Thus He makes His words spirit and life.

Statesmen are present in the governments which they have founded. Thus Washington is present in the American Constitution, and Bonaparte in the Code Napoleon. Authors are present in succeeding ages in their books. Thus Homer and Plato are marching down the generations. But the presence of Christ through the Comforter is entirely different. It is a real spiritual and personal presence, invisible to all, but felt by the truly regenerate. "The Paraclete takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us. "He shall testify of me. He shall glorify me." It is said that the personal presence of Napoleon on the field of battle was equal to a re-enforcement of ten thousand men. But he could not be present in every battle of the French down the ages, for the allied nations caged him up in St. Helena, and death soon imprisoned him in the tomb. But Jesus Christ is present to every tempted believer and in every Waterloo of His church, not as a hallowed and inspiring memory, but a veritable personality, manifesting Himself to the loving heart. This is true because the Comforter is emphatically the Spirit of Christ. To fail to realize this truth is not to have heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

We are to be on our guard against commingling the risen Son of God with the Spirit. They are distinct personalities while one in substance. The Spirit is the organ through which the Son now communicates with the believer and with the world. He is the revealer by whose activity in human hearts redemptive truth is transformed into knowledge in such a manner that faith becomes knowledge (Eph. iv. 13). The Holy Spirit is the channel of reality. He gives eyesight to the spiritually blind. He gives visibility, substance, color and weight to truths which are as airy nothings to the sense-imprisoned soul. Vague, shadowy and unreal are spiritual truths to the carnal heart. The inward vision, the spirit of revelation (Eph. i. 17) is wanting. "Whom the world receiveth not, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." Granite realities indeed are gospel truths to him who has received the Comforter. The sordid earth and the shining orbs are soap bubbles in comparison. The things that are seen are temporal and evanescent, and the things that are not seen are changeless and eternal. Thus the Holy Spirit leads us up to that mount of vision where we see things with God's eyes, where the world's reals become the believer's unreals, and the things unreal to blind unbelief become real to open-eyed faith. The feet which press this mount will not be lured by mammon from ministries to the Master.

"As by the light of opening day
The stars are all concealed,
So earthly glories fade away
When Jesus is revealed."

The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 1.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Spirit of Reality

The designation Spirit of truth might have been translated Spirit of reality. He is thus called by Jesus because He works in human souls only through the instrumentality of truth. Men are begotten children of God through the word of God. They are sanctified through the truth. The truth is the instrument; the Spirit is the efficient worker. The stability of the new life consists in having the "loins girt about with truth." Victory in warfare is through a vigorous wielding of "the sword of the Spirit, the word of God." When the Spirit convicts of sin, He takes such religious truth as He finds in the mind and makes it vivid and real. Conviction is the distinct realization of the person's lack of conformity to the requirement of the truth. There is no proof that the Holy Spirit ever acts immediately upon the soul without the medium of some truth lodged in the intellect, affording light for the activity of the will.

Successful preaching is, by manifestation of the truth accompanied by the demonstration of the Spirit. The failure of many preachers arises from their dependence solely on the saving efficacy of the truth without the Spirit's office to make it real. There is a legend that the eloquent head of a monastery died, and that while his body was lying in state before burial one of Satan's imps took possession of the corpse, raised it to seeming life, and preached an orthodox sermon through the lips of the dead abbot. The evil spirit returned to pandemonium and boasted of his exploit. When asked by Satan whether he did not run the risk of converting some soul by his orthodox sermon he replied: "Sire, do you not well know that orthodoxy without the unction of the Spirit never saves, but always damns?" John Wesley asserts that an impenitent man may be as orthodox as the devil, who believes and trembles, but is not improved in character by his faith and his fear.

The Gospel of the Comforter (1898). Chapter 1

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.