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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

On Churches, Sects, and Associations

QUESTION: Why do we not find the history and statement of doctrines of the National Holiness Association in any of the cyclopedias or church history?

ANSWER: Because it is not a sect or denomination. It does not advocate any doctrines differing from universal Methodism. It aims to benefit the members of all evangelical churches and all others whom they can reach.

QUESTION: Please define the words "church" and "sect," and show whether they are antagonistic or harmonious.

ANSWER: The "church" or ecclesia is an assembly of those who love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own meetings for the promotion of their own spirituality and for the conversion of sinners and the disciplining of all nations, and who manage their own affairs according to regulations prescribed for the body for order's sake. "Sect" is not, as some erroneously say, from the Latin verb seco, "I cut," denoting something cut off, but from sequor, "I follow," denoting the disciples of some leader of philosophy or religion. In the four Gospels and the Acts it is never used as a term of reproach, but in a good sense, except in the erroneous English version of Acts 24:5,15, where the prosecuting attorney, the orator Tertullus, styles Paul "the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes," and Paul replies, "I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they (the Jews) call a sect (Revision), so serve I the God of my fathers." Here his plea is that his sectarianism is in perfect harmony with loyal membership in the Jewish church. Dr. Campbell, in his Dissertation IX, Part 4, Notes on the Four Gospels, proves that in the Epistles the word "heresy" (sect), when not associated with terms having a bad meaning, never has an evil signification. The conclusion is that "church" and "sect" are not antagonistic, but, as Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, were all in good standing in the Jewish church, because they believed in Moses, so Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, etc., all loving and obeying the same Savior, are loyal members of his body, his church.

Steele's Answers pp. 183, 184.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In What Sense is Sin Inherited?

QUESTION: In what sense may sin be transmitted?

ANSWER: Not as guilt, which implies an intelligent, willful, wrong act, but as a downward tendency according to the laws of heredity, by which not only physical and intellectual traits are transmitted, but also moral proclivities.

Steele's Answers p. 182, 183.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Holy Spirit & Pentecost

QUESTION: (1) Have we any Scriptures that indicate that the disciples were sanctified wholly before Pentecost? (2) Does the Holy Spirit take up his abode in the entirely sanctified heart? (3) Is not the gift of tongues necessary today to mark the incoming of the Spirit to abide permanently?

ANSWER: (1) No. The passage in John 20:22 indicates some spiritual gift, rather than the person of the Spirit. (2) Yes. See John 1416, 17, 23; 15:16; I Cor. 6:19; James 4:5. "That spirit which he made to dwell in us yearneth for us even unto jealous envy" (American Revised Version, margin). (3) Tongues were one of the extraordinary gifts (not graces) named in I Cor. 12:4-11. Says Paul, "Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving." In our day they are not needed. Christianity has better proofs of its truth in its transformation of individuals and nations.

Steele's Answers p. 182.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where Did Satan Come From?

QUESTION: Where did Satan come from?

ANSWER: From himself. As a sinless creature God created him, but as a devil he made himself (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 7:18, John 8:44, II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 12:3). Dr. Bushnell and others, myself included, think that a scheme of redemption was provided which some angels accepted and became confrmed in holiness, and others rejected and became permanently fixed in wickedness.

Steele's Answers pp. 181, 182.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Transformed by the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ

It will be spiritually healthful to dwell upon a few of the desperate cases which illustrate the power of the Gospel.

Paul thus describes a miracle of the Holy Ghost wrought in Corinth: "Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor drunkards, nor idolaters, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." Look at this rogues gallery, — as vile a gang as ever were sentenced to State-prison, — transformed by the grace of our Lord Jesus into a company of seraphs fit to be enthroned beside the archangels.

See Augustine, a rake transformed by the Holy Spirit, in answer to his mother's prayers, into the saintly Christian bishop. It was the power of the Spirit which changed John Newton, the captain of a slave-ship, into an eminent minister of the gospel of love, and the vicious tinker of Elstow, transfigured by the regenerating and sanctifying Spirit, into the glorious dreamer and author of Pilgrim's Progress, a book which has a grip on an earthly immortality next to the Bible itself. Take one of the many remarkable conversions of our own times; that of Jerry McAuley, notorious as the wickedest man in New York, a thief, drunkard, ex-convict, and noted river pirate. He was when nineteen years old sent to prison for fifteen years and six months. After he signed the temperance pledge, "he fell five times in the first few months and got fighting drunk." But after he let the Holy Spirit have the right of way through all his being he never fell again. He established a rescue mission in which hundreds, if not thousands, of sinners of his class were saved before his death, and many since he went up to receive a victor's crown.

Modern Methodists would receive a healthful spiritual tonic in studying the triumphs of the Gospel as preached by Wesley and Whitefield, disarming desperate and infuriated men, turning cursings into blessings, drunkards into sober men, whole communities of ignorant, besotted, and belligerent colliers into intelligent, peaceable Christians, thickly dotting their once semi-pagan region with elegant Wesleyan chapels, filled with joyful worshipers singing the hymns of the Wesleys, whose faith in the Holy Spirit's power to save was so strong that they risked their lives in preaching, to these worse than beasts at Ephesus, the glorious gospel of Christ. They believed that it could change lions into lambs. God signally honored their faith. O for such preachers everywhere, to-day and to-morrow and forever as long as sinners are found on the earth!

Well may the triumphant believer sing [with Charles Wesley], —

"Thou dost conduct thy people
Through torrents of temptation;
Nor will we fear while thou art near
The fire of tribulation;

"The world, with sin and Satan,
In vain our march opposes;
In thee we will break through them all
And sing the Song of Moses."

Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Temptation

Temptation is one of the conditions of human probation. We must be put to the proof so long as we are in this world. Character can be solidified and beautified in no other way. Solicitations to sin under various disguises severely test all men. Temptation is a fiery furnace which either anneals or annihilates. The question, Which of these destinies? is determined each for himself. It is the question of power to endure the flames. This power in turn is the question of the indwelling of God, making the soul and body his habitation through the Spirit. This ultimately hinges on faith. "This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith." This unites with God and infuses into us his omnipotence. Some are tempted in one way and some in another; some in their animal nature, and yielding, are drawn downward to sensuality; some are tempted on the intellectual side, and failing to overcome, they become skeptics and stumble on the dark mountains of unbelief. Kings and presidents are tempted by their possession of power, and by a crowd of flatterers; the beggar is drawn toward the low vices of falsehood, deception, and theft. How may all classes overcome? There is but one sure way — by being girded with strength by the Holy Spirit received by faith in Jesus Christ.

— from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How Is the Power of God Obtained?

The success of a preacher is not so much in the strength of his logic, or the splendor of his rhetoric, as in the atmosphere of love in which both his pulpit and pastoral work are ensphered. The brainy man will be admired, but admiration is not ministerial success. It converts no sinners. The man of a warm heart will be loved.

Gospel salvation makes sanctified human love its electric wire to souls distant from God, and melts them into penitence. It is not possible for all preachers to be as irresistible in argument as Chillingworth, as brilliant in diction as MaCaulay, or as his gifted limner, Punshon; but all may have the baptism of love, perfect love to God and man, love the fountain of pathos and of power to sway men, drawing them to God.

If this secret of success is within every one's reach, how can it be obtained? Some tell us that we must commune with nature, study the beautiful flower, listen to His voice in the zephyr, and, in a reverent and childlike attitude, read earth and sky as two pages of God's love-letter to man. It is true that "part of his name divinely stands, on all His creatures writ." But only the sentiment of love, not the real virtue of love to God, will be awakened by the study of nature. The contemplation of Nature is one thing, but communion with the Personal God is another and far superior thing. Sentimental love bearing the Christian name will prompt no sacrifices, awaken no quenchless zeal, inspire no unspeakable joy, eradicate no inward depravity, tame no evil passion, make no roll of heroes, thrust out no evangelists, and erect no trophy of victory over the world. That this is a truthful description you will not deny after an examination of the characters of those who profess this kind of love to God. On their return not from communion with God on the Lord's Day, not in the house of prayer, but in the forest or field, what kind of fruits do they bear? Are they aflame with that love to God which obeys with gladness all his known commands, and diligently searches his Word for a more accurate knowledge of his will? Are they burning with zeal to spread his kingdom? Do they so earnestly love their fellow-men in the pagan lands, or in the slums of our great cities, that they gladly sacrifice for the success of Christian missions? Worshipers of nature have never been known to bear these practical proofs of genuine Christian love. They have not been to its source, they do not know the Person who enkindles every truly believing heart into a flame of love by dropping a spark from the skies. "Hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us."

Others assert that we do not need the Spirit to reveal God's love, that the Bible is all the revelation that we need. It is true that the Bible is our sufficient revelation of God's attributes, the principles of his moral government, the law he has given us, and the Redeemer whom he has provided. But my pardon and purity are personal facts which it is not the province of God's written Word to reveal, but his Spirit only. "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." Many talk glibly about a Father to whom they have never been introduced by the Son through the mission of the Spirit, crying in their hearts "Abba, Father." They belong to the "many" to whom the Judge will say, "I never knew you, depart from me." Salvation includes much more than a book knowledge of God. It is quite probable that the entire New Testament, if not the whole Bible, will be found in hell in the memories of those who have read it, but have failed to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Thousands have read the Gospels, and have seen the Son of God pass four times before their eyes, and have failed to know him as their personal Savior. They can admire his sinless character and still say, "This man shall not rule over us." They are not new creatures, because they refuse to be born of the Spirit. They may have a historical faith in Jesus Christ, but they come short of that evangelical trust which receives him as the Savior and enthrones him as king. "They have the form of godliness while denying its power." Trusting in a form is building your mansion on a cloud instead of the Rock of Ages.

This is the great peril of nominal Christians. Their number increases rapidly wherever persecution has ceased and Christianity has become fashionable. They have never been transformed by its power. They have never really submitted to God and received his adorable Son as their infallible teacher, effectual Savior, and rightful Lord. They have never cast themselves in utter self-despair upon the merits of his atonement, crying, "for me, for me my Savior died." They have never received a response from heaven, the witness to their adoption, uttered by the Holy Spirit with a voice which no one knows excepting him in whose heart it has consciously resounded. They have no power because they have no life. They may have culture, science, money, and social standing, but they have no grip upon God, the source of all power. What they need is that vital power which overcomes the inertia of nature and makes the sluggish active.

Look at the apostles. Like all men they once preferred ease to toil, security to peril, and life to death. After Pentecost they knew no rest, shunned no peril, and counted not their own lives dear unto them in their attestation of the truth that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews and the Redeemer of the world. Peter, who less than two months before had uttered cowardly lies, vainly confirming them with oaths, shaking with terror at the presence and questions of a servant girl, now looks the assembled Jewish magnates in the eye, and boldly declares that they with wicked hands have crucified the Prince of Life. Timidity yields to the might of the Holy Spirit having full sway in the believer's soul. Many regenerate persons are weakened by timidity. They are spiritual mutes in public and private. Utterance and boldness would be theirs if by faith they would submit their hearts to be strengthened by the might of the Spirit.

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Conquering Love is Not Human, But Divine

Jesus Christ's method of conquest by love, disarming malice by turning the other cheek to the smiter, has been sneeringly criticized by a shallow philosophy as the vantage ground to wrong and not to right, as subversive of justice and good order, and inadequate to the cure of social evils. More recently a better philosophy, called altruism, has prevailed. Its primal principle is that the only way to beget right feelings, motives, and impulses in others is to manifest them as incarnated in yourself; that love toward the unworthy and malevolent will awaken responsive love. The second altruistic principle is that love towards enemies can originate and flourish on the plane of nature far below the sphere of the supernatural. The love that is conquering the world is not human but divine. Only by divine grace can you love the unlovely and hateful. You cannot do it by mere will power. Unchristian altruism is a fine theory but it will not work; it is utterly impracticable. Christianity is practicable when it successfully confronts all the moral, social, political, and economic problems, because omnipotence is its motive power, the omnipotence of that love which is sky-born.

— from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More Love, More Power

Another element of power inwrought by the Holy Spirit is love. We have all heard the phrase made classic in Christian literature by Dr. Chalmers' title to one of his sermons "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection."

A man's spiritual foes are chiefly of his own natural heart. He needs a power to bind these enemies and cast them out before he can have perfect peace. This power is love, not merely the natural affection for kindred and friends, but that supernatural affection "shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit," causing our whole being to move God-ward and man-ward, because man wears the image of God.

The Holy Spirit must not be viewed as a material agent infusing a subtle, imponderable fluid into man's body. He is God's messenger through whom he communicates the good news that his anger for our sins is turned away from us, and that he now loves us because of our faith in his Son. This trust in Christ has caused a revolution in us, turning us away from our sins and bringing us into the sphere of his complacent love. This good news from God that he loves me, even me, awakens responsive love in me, a new affection averse to every impulse in me which is hostile to God. This is the philosophy of the expulsive power of love.

Do I need any such message direct from God? Can I not infer from a study of my own mental exercises, and a comparison with the description of God's friends in his written Word, that God loves me? Let us see. The same Word of God declares that he is angry with the wicked every day. My conscience testifies that I am wicked. Before I can have perfect deliverance from a sense of guilt and dread of punishment I must know, beyond a peradventure, by an assurance excluding doubt, that I have been taken out of the company on whom God frowns, and have been put into company basking in his smile. Inference is not sufficient. I must have an assurance from the mouth of God himself. This alone allays fear and opens the fountain of the purest joy. This message instantaneously communicated is in beautiful harmony with our Protestant doctrine of justification by faith, a momentary act taking place in the mind of the Moral Governor in heaven. The witness of the spirit is the link between the pardoning God and the pardoned sinner. The news of God's benefaction awakens love towards the Benefactor. Hence this love divine arises in us in perfect harmony with the structure and laws of the human mind. Love is the essence of Christianity and its central power which is moving it through the world, and which will ultimately draw all nations to God:

"Sink downs ye separating hills,
Let sin and death remove;
'Tis love that drives my chariot wheels,
And death must yield to love."

The more love the more power. Perfect love brings the maximum of spiritual power to the individual and to the church.

When churches decline in love they lose their power to attract and to convert. Then it is pitiable to see the ineffectual substitutes for the lost power. To hold the young people who belong to them by inheritance they resort to entertainments, but these do not transform and fill with divine love. They are soon disgusted, and fall away from attending those amusements, which are discovered to be only baits to draw them unwilling into the net of the church when all their inclinations are to the world and its more attractive entertainments, — the pleasures of the dance, the card-table, and the theater. This is a most woeful mistake made by many modern churches. It must be rectified or those churches will become extinct. When does a church die? When it loses its converting power, just as a family becomes extinct when its power of reproduction is lost. You will find in our great libraries A History of Burke's Extinct Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Some centuries hence there may be found in our libraries a History of the extinct denominations of the United States, the Quakers, Swedenborgians, the Unitarians, the Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. They all died of one disease, — heart-failure.

 — edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Overcoming Doubt

"But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways." — James 1:6-8 (ASV 1901)

Incertitude is a paralysis of the soul's highest faculties. Doubt weakens by distraction. Etymologically it signifies moving in two opposite directions. It produces fluctuation, hesitation, and suspense. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." He has a divine premonition that he needs "not expect to receive anything from the Lord." If he is a preacher, his announcement of the Gospel will be weak and ineffectual. He cannot speak with the assurance of a personal experience which is requisite to produce conviction.

How many preachers would multiply their efficiency and usefulness if they would kneel down by the side of Paul and repeat in faith his petition that they might be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man! (Eph. iii. 14-21). It was his experience of the revelation of the Son of God in him by the Holy Ghost that made him successful as an evangelist, mighty in labors, courageous in danger, patient in sufferings, and triumphant in martyrdom. No heroism was ever born of doubt. It is only when the soul is set on fire by some great moral truth, clearly seen and firmly grasped, yea, ingrained into its very texture, that moral sublimity in effort, in sacrifice, and in speech emerges. Doubt heads no glorious company of martyrs marching to the stake.

It is customary to advise the doubter to a study of the Christian evidences, to count the towers of Christianity, and mark well her bulwarks. Such a survey has done me much good, and I commend it to all who have leisure. But there is for the mass of busy people a shorter way. Everybody cannot thoroughly master the treatises of Bishop Butler, Archdeacon Paley, and President Hopkins, and, if they could, they might die before they had got so far along as to be convinced of the truth and receive Christ as both Savior and Lord. What is the shorter way? With the New Testament open before him, even if he doubts the ability of Christ to save, let him act on the truth he does believe, however small, and kneel down with a sense of dependence on some higher power or person, and utter an honest prayer for help. Let him, if he doubts even the existence of God, begin as one bewildered skeptic did, by saying, "O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul." Our merciful God did not disdain to answer this prayer. The Holy Spirit showed in quick succession the greatness of his sins and the surpassing greatness of his Redeemer, whom he was enabled by the same spirit to apprehend by faith as his personal Savior. Now this shorter way, which we recommend to the slave ignorant of the alphabet, we commend to skeptical sage sitting in his ample library. On your knees pray for light, and as fast as it comes follow it. "If any man willeth to do his will" — God's will — "he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak from myself," as a mere man without divine authority. Heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle, one crossing of a t or dot of an i, shall fail in this promise in the case of one who seeks with a spirit of obedience to know Jesus Christ's character and mission. No man can be an honest skeptic till he has faithfully tried this shorter way and found that it leads nowhere. This way honestly trodden brings the doubter to certainty. Says Joseph Cook, "I assert that it is a fixed natural law that when you yield yourself utterly to God, his light will stream through and through your soul."

God honors obedience because it implies faith as its root. This truth we commend to those who regard it a special excellence to be in uncertainty respecting their relation to Christ. To be void of assurance they regard as an evidence of humility; whereas it is an evidence of a very defective obedience and of an absence of total self-surrender to God. As well might the guest without the wedding garment plead that this destitution evinces superior humility. Assurance is always accompanied by humility. Thomas never felt smaller than in the moment when his risen Lord stood before him challenging him to test the reality of his body. When he was constrained to cry, " My Lord and my God," "how cheap and mean his previous doubts seemed, and how deep his self-abasement.

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.