Intro

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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Ebb and Flow of Christian Joy

Do not imagine that the sudden subsidence of ecstatic joy is the withdrawal of the abiding Comforter.

You retain him by faith and not by feeling. The highest Christian experience is subject to variations. Joy, like the tide, ebbs and flows. There are times when the soul, without effort, apprehends the love of God, and joy unspeakable fills, floods, and overwhelms it. Suddenly this bright manifestation is withdrawn, while no testimony of the Spirit is left behind against any act of ours as the cause. While there is no cloud nor doubt, there is no direct assurance. All is a waveless, breathless calm. Then is the time to walk by the lamp of faith, since the sunlight of the direct and joyful witness of God's love is withdrawn. Beware lest you admit the thought that the fullness of God has left you with the cessation of the exultant joy of the Holy Spirit. These alternations of feeling are doubtless regulated by hidden but benevolent laws. They may be requisite for the development of higher faith, when the soul, humbled and hungering, cries out,

"My heartstrings groan with deep complaint,
My flesh lies panting, Lord, for thee."

These inexplicable vacations of the manifestation of Divine love may be necessary for the more deliberate examination of our hearts. It is said that in the early days of railroading the careful engineer would occasionally stop his train in order to tap the wheels and test their soundness and safety. So God may at times interrupt the current of conscious love, to afford us an appropriate occasion for spiritual introspection. The man who walks by faith through these intervals will soon find even a clearer and more joyful out-beaming of the Saviour's countenance to reward his faithful clinging to the Divine promise.

— from Love Enthroned, Chapter 11.

The Law of Moses

QUESTION: (1) How much is included in what is termed the Law of Moses? (2) Is this the same as that referred to in the New Testament as "the Law"? (3) As Christians, what is our relation to the Mosaic Law?

ANSWER: (1) It is the legislative part of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It consisted of three portions, the Moral, the Ceremonial. And the Judicial. (2) The Moral embraces the Decalogue and certain ethical precepts such as relate to marriage, etc. This is binding on all Christians. The Ceremonial and the Judicial or civil law of the Hebrew nation are not binding on Christians. (3) When Paul says we are justified without the Law, he means we are not under obligation to plead that we have kept the moral law in order to be accepted. It is not the ground of our justification, but it is still the rule of life, and obedience to it is the fruit if faith in Jesus Christ. It will always be obligatory.


Steele's Answers pp. 80, 81.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Real Trust in Christ

There are many persons who seek the pardon of their sins who do not find that great blessing. There are various reasons; but the chief one lies in the fact that the unsuccessful seekers do not really trust in Jesus Christ. They are told to trust, and they try, and they think that they do, but they are mistaken. The truth is, that saving faith is possible only in a certain state of mind. There is a divinely prescribed and irreversible order of duties: first, repent; and secondly, believe. When a sinner feels that he is lost, and loathes his sins, he is more than half saved. Trust in Christ for forgiveness is possible only to one who realizes his utter helplessness.

Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1, Chapter 10.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christian Perfection is Not Adamic Perfection

QUESTION: Is Christian Perfection, as set forth by Wesley, Adamic?

ANSWER; No. It does not make us as perfect as Adam was before he sinned and impaired his own nature and that of all his descendants. Such diminished capacities and crippled powers as we have we are to consecrate fully to God, trusting in Jesus Christ. This gift of ourselves God accepts as a perfect offering and fills us with his love. Our perfect love responsive to his great love he accepts as the fulfillment of his law, through the merit of the atonement made by his adorable Son.

— from Steele's Answers pp. 96, 97.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are We Responsible for Original Sin?

QUESTION: Are we not responsible for inbred sin?

ANSWER: I cannot he responsible for any inborn quality. But when I find that there is a perfect cure in the blood of Christ and I prefer the disease to the cure, I become responsible for the continued existence of the inherited evil tendency. The whole Christian world from before the days of Jerome down to Wesley inclusive believed in the guilt of the original sin, that we all sinned in Adam and deserve punishment for Adam's sin and that we cannot plead an alibi, i.e., that we were elsewhere. This doctrine which has perplexed Christians and clouded the character of God 1,500 years, came from a mistranslation of Rom. 3:12, "in whom all have sinned," instead of "in that we all sin" (sooner or later), all except the Son of man. This mistake is, in the earliest Latin Version, and was copied by Jerome in the Vulgate, guilt of "original sin" became fixed in the theology of the church from which it descended into some reformed churches, especially those of the Calvinian type.

— from Steele's Answers pp 94, 95.

Anger

QUESTION: Explain Eph. 4:26, "Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath."

ANSWER: In the presence of wrongdoing, if we are Godlike, we must feel such displeasure as he feels (Rom. 1:18). Hence there is a sinless anger, an adverse emotion in view of any injustice or falsehood demanding the punishment of the wrongdoer in the interest of good order and righteousness, not of personal ill will. This feeling, though consistent with uninterrupted perfect love, has its perils, if it becomes chronic and settles into a grudge. The being angry without sin presupposes that the heart is not embittered, but remains appeasable. To secure this feeling let not the anger be carried over into the following day. Have a faith that leaves the matter with God, as Paul exhorts us in Rom. 12:19, for the first time correctly translated in the American Version, "Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me." The truth is that anger in human hearts is like a razor in the hands of a baby. The sooner it is handed over to the child's father the better for it. A negro woman complained to her pastor of the ill treatment she was suffering by her husband. When asked whether she had applied the Scriptural cure of heaping coals of fire on his head (Rom. 12:20), she replied, "No, but I have tried pouring hot water on him, but it made him all the worse." There is much good sense in Wesley's note: "If ye are angry, take heed ye sin not. Anger at sin is not evil; but we should feel only pity to the sinner. If we are angry at the person, as well as the fault, we sin. And how hardly do we avoid it!"

— from Steele's Answers pp. 95, 96.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saved Without Baptism?

QUESTION: How can the Friends or Quakers be saved when they do not believe in baptism?

ANSWER: It is not a saving ordinance, but a willful neglect of it indicates a spirit of disobedience which is a bar to salvation. But the Friends have no such disobedient spirit. Their difficulty is not in their hearts but in their heads. They believe in baptism, not water baptism, but that of the Holy Spirit, the reality of which water baptism is only a symbol. They say, "Why should I be concerned about the shadow while I have the substance?" Let us be charitable toward the mistake of the Christians.

— from Steele's Answers p. 94.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Mountain-top Saints

The faith which is the required condition of being lifted into the higher regions of Christian experience is possible only to a soul whose obedience has reached the point of entire surrender to the will of God, where there is a willingness to walk to Calvary with the fainting Christ, and to be crucified with Him. Then, and then only, will the Christ-life take the place of the old self-life, enabling the believer to adopt St. Paul's words: "I have been crucified with Christ; alive no longer am I, but alive is Christ within me." [Meyer]

Let no one accuse Luther of boasting, when through "the obedience of faith" he reached that deadness to sin, and that conscious fullness of the divine life, which enabled him to say: "If any man knocks at the door of my breast, and says, Who lives here? my answer is, Jesus Christ lives here, not Martin Luther." The great reformer did not stumble into this Christian experience. To reach it he was often closeted with God three hours a day, studying the divine promises, and wrestling with the Lord, as Jacob with the angel.

Says Spurgeon: "There is a point in grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling." Of such he says: "Their place is with the eagle in his eyrie, high aloft. They are rejoicing Christians, holy and devout men, doing service for the Master all over the world, and everywhere conquerors through Him that loved them."

The mountain-top is a position men do not slide into but climb up to. Thus these mountain-top saints climbed up the ascent by the stairway of the gospel promises, with the sunlit summit in full view as a definite aim.

Their faith made their obedience spontaneous, free, and gladsome; while their conscious obedience reacted on their faith, making it strong and tenacious of the promise of Jesus: "If ye love Me, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever."


"The perfect way is hard to flesh;
It is not hard to love;
If thou wert sick for want of God,
How swiftly wouldst thou move!

"Then keep thy conscience sensitive;
No inward token miss:
And go where grace entices thee: —
PERFECTION LIES IN THIS."

— edited and adapted from Mile-Stone Papers, Chapter 9.








Monday, December 9, 2013

Faith Includes Obedience

The fact that genuine faith always includes obedience is a sufficient answer to the sceptic's objection that salvation is made to hinge upon a bare intellectual act, without reference to the character of the agent. It is just the opposite. It is an act of submission to the highest authority in the universe — an act which tends to conserve its moral order, by enthroning the moral law in universal supremacy. A singular confirmation of the truth of these remarks is found in the Greek Testament, where ἀπείθεια, unbelief, is frequently used to signify disobedience and obstinacy. The unbelief for which men are to be everlastingly condemned lies in the rebellious attitude of the will toward Jesus Christ, and not in any supposed innocent intellectual inability to believe the truth of God's word.

— from Mile-Stone Papers, Chapter 9.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

On Galatians 5:17

QUESTION: Explain Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit (strives) against the flesh; for these are contrary one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would."

ANSWER: Flesh is used in a bad sense for evil inclinations. Hence the Holy Spirit after regeneration resists such evil tendencies which still cling to the newborn soul. This produces an inward conflict, the Spirit trying to keep the man from doing wrong and the flesh striving to hinder those Christian acts to which the Spirit prompts. The Revision eliminates the "cannot" which has no place in the Greek, for God's grace superabounds where sin has abounded. 

Steele's Answers p. 93. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

The First Throb of Spiritual Life

QUESTION: In Revelation 2:4, what is signified by first-love?

ANSWER: The love of God shed abroad in the heart when he first savingly trusts in Jesus. Christ, awakening responsive love which is the first throb of spiritual life, Strange indeed is the fact that backsliders generally deny and decry this experience as a mere spasm of excited sensibilities.


Steele's Answers p. 93. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Does God Foreknow Who Will Be Saved?

QUESTION: Does God foreknow who will be saved and who will be lost?

ANSWER: There are two answers, [1.] yes, but this foreknowledge in no way causes this ultimate fact. There is nothing causative in knowledge of things present, past or future. These divisions of time are an eternal now with God. The second answer is [2.] no; God knows only what is knowable. The non-existent is not knowable. The future free moral choices of men in probation are non-existent. This is the doctrine of the late Professor McCabe, who published a book on the Divine Nescience. Bishop Taylor and some others had the same opinion. It seems difficult to reconcile it with the prediction of future events which are decided by free agents. Moreover it greatly circumscribes omniscience and seemingly detracts from God's infinitude. For these reasons most theologians reject it, preferring the first answer.


Steele's Answers pp. 92, 93. 




EDITOR'S NOTE: The more things change the more they stay the same. Astute readers will recognize the first of these answers as Molinism, and the second answer as Open Theism — still the alternatives in Arminian Christian theology to this day — though Open Theism has gained increasing support. It is interesting to me that Steele can cite, even in his day, supporters of the Open Theist view.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Where Did the Term "Original Sin" Originate?

QUESTION: When did the term "original sin" originate in Christian theology?

ANSWER: The doctrine of an inborn propensity to sin was taught by the New Testament writers, but the phrase "original sin" probably arose soon after Jerome, the author of the Vulgate version, erroneously translated Rom. 5:12, "in whom all men have sinned." This was quoted in proof that we all were present in Adam and were guilty of the sin we then committed and are consequently deserving of eternal punishment. The correct rendering is "death passed unto all men, for that all sin," sooner or later. That is the bent of fallen humanity. Original sin is now understood to mean that hereditary leaning toward moral evil which is removed by the completed work of the Holy Spirit in entire sanctification.

Steele's Answers pp. 91, 92. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Meaning of Mortify (Colossians 3:5)

"Mortify (νεκρώσατε aorist, kill outright), therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry...."(Colossians 3:5 KJV)

"Let nothing," says Bishop Ellicott, "live inimical to your true life, hidden in Christ. Kill at once (aorist) the organs and media of a merely earthly life."

Here, in the very strongest terms, is the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification as a distinct and instantaneous work of the Spirit clearly set forth. A young evangelist, holding meetings in a Baptist church, preached to pastor and people entire sanctification as immediately obtainable by faith. The pastor was stumbled by the English reading of this text, "Mortify;" that is, keep mortifying day by day. He thought that he must ever keep a little sin alive in his heart in order to be forever mortifying it. His mistake was (1) in overlooking the real meaning of Mortify, (νεκρόω) to make dead, and substituting the idea of repression: and (2) in disregarding the aorist tense of the command, enjoining a decisive and momentary act, to be done once for all.

— adapted from Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1 Chapter 8.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christian Brothers and Sisters

QUESTION: To whom should we apply the endearing term, brother or sister?

ANSWER: To the children of our earthly parents, and to all the sons and daughters of our heavenly Father in the New Testament sense, being born of the Spirit.


Steele's Answers p. 91.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sanctification and Soul Winning

QUESTION: Does the experience of entire sanctification tend to lessen one's efficiency as a soul winner?

ANSWER; It is true that this experience is so wonderful and so all-absorbing that it tends to concentrate one's energies in the endeavor to promote the same experience in believers to the comparative neglect of the unconverted. He is apt to think that henceforth his chief mission is to Christians who have not had the glorious uplift which he enjoys. This fills his mind and gives direction to his study of the Bible and Christian literature. His preaching will be on this theme almost entirely, unless he takes special pains to diversify his pulpit ministrations by a frequent recurrence to "the first principles of Christ, repentance, faith, ...and eternal judgment," which in our personal experience we are exhorted to leave, as a child leaves his alphabet, by using it as a stepping stone to advanced learning. The preacher, like a teacher in an ungraded school, must often recur to the alphabet if he would minister to all classes of his hearers. The failure to do this in the case of some Pentecostal preachers affords a foundation for the criticism that their ministrations are not adapted to convict and convert unbelievers. The difficulty would be removed if the preacher had special meetings for special classes, saints in the morning and sinners in the evening.

Steele's Answers pp. 90, 91. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Can a Methodist Preacher Sell Life Insurance?

QUESTION: Can an ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church be an insurance agent and not break his vows to God and the church?

ANSWER: Yes. He may have lost his health and be obliged to desist from preaching, or he may be a local preacher and preach without salary on Sundays and get his living, as Paul did, by secular work on week days. Insurance is as honorable as tent-making. We need more local preachers of the Pauline type in America. They are a tower of strength to the Wesleyans in England preaching in the streets and hamlets distant from the centers of population. 

Steele's Answers p. 90. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Faith and Feeling

"The power of God," says Fletcher, "is frequently talked of, but rarely felt, and too often cried down under the despicable name of frames and feelings."

"If I had a mind," said the eloquent George Whitefield, "to hinder the progress of the Gospel, and to establish the kingdom of darkness, I would go about telling people they might have the Spirit of God, and yet not feel it," or which is much the same, that the pardon which Christ procured for them is already obtained by them, whether they enjoy the sense of it or not."

This is the kind of faith which multitudes of souls in utter spiritual barrenness are resting in for eternal life. They are exhorted to beware of looking for any changed feeling, that feeling is inconsistent with true faith.

Says John Wesley, "It is easy to satisfy ourselves without being possessed of the holiness and happiness of the Gospel. It is easy to call these (holiness and happiness) frames and feelings, and then to oppose faith to one and Christ to the other. Frames (allowing the expression) are no other than heavenly tempers, the mind that was in Christ; feelings are the Divine consolations of the Holy Ghost shed abroad in the heart of him that truly believes. And wherever faith is, and wherever Christ is, there are these blessed frames and feelings. If they are not in us, it is a sure sign that though the wilderness become a pool, the pool is become a wilderness again." (Note on Peter iii. 18).

This is the process of inculcating this kind of faith: The religious teacher sits down in the inquiry room, by the side of the seeker, opens his Bible at Romans x. 9, and reads: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus (Jesus as Lord, Rev. Ver.), and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Do you confess that Jesus is your Lord? Yes. Do you believe that He arose from the dead? Yes. Well, praise the Lord, you are born again! you have found eternal life. But I do not experience any inward change. Never mind that; you are to believe without any feeling. If you look for feeling as the ground of your faith that you are now a child of God, you dishonor the Word. The Word says that you are saved, and you ought to believe the Bible. It is weak and childish to be looking for any change in your feelings. I strongly advise you to be baptized and join the Church. You have fulfilled the conditions of salvation. You are henceforth to count yourself a Christian, and by a resolved will to crush out all doubts respecting your conversion, whenever they arise. For they will arise. All true Christians have doubts of this kind. It is an evidence that they have a good hope in Christ. But, dear pastor, is this all there is in the new birth? I expected I should have unspeakable joy, arising from a sense of burning love. I thought I should be sure that I was saved by some inward impression by the Holy Ghost. Oh, says the pastor, you are not to expect a miraculous conversion. That kind is limited to the Apostolic age.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Finding Forgiveness

QUESTION: That a seeker for pardon may find this blessing must he believe that God for Christ's sake does forgive?

ANSWER: Some preachers unwisely thus direct the seeker and some following this advice are saved not-withstanding the erroneous counsel, because they did trust in Christ. The error is the assumption that the teacher and the seeker both know that the conditions of salvation have been perfectly fulfilled, a fact known only to God. As soon as he knows it he does the work. By all means read Bishop Wm. Taylor's "Election of Grace" and his "How to Be Saved." He lets the light into this subject. Wesley's fourth step, "believe that he doth it" has been misunderstood by many teachers as a requisite to saving faith instead of being its sequel. this mistaken advice makes the way of salvation so hard as to repel some and mislead and disappoint others. The safe advice is to keep trusting in Christ till the spirit of adoption inspires the cry in the heart, "abba, Father." In so doing no earnest inquirer will fail to find justification by faith.

Steele's Answers pp. 89, 90.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Antinomian Faith

We look in vain in all these writers of the Antinomian school, whether ancient or modern, any adequate definitions of saving faith. After a faithful and patient study, extending through ten years, I can find in these writings no better notion of faith than a bare intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus put away sin once and forever on His cross.

There is no preliminary to this mental act, such as a heart-felt conviction of sin, and eternal abandonment of it in purpose and in reality. Nor is there any test of this faith in the genuineness of its fruits.

The evangelical definition of saving faith is utterly ignored, — that it has its root in genuine repentance, its bud and blossom in joyful obedience, and its fruitage in holiness of heart and life; that in addition to the assent of the intellect, — the fruitless faith of devils (James ii. 19), — there must be the consent of the will, the Christward movement of the moral sensibilities, and an unwavering reliance on Him, and on Him alone, as a present Saviour.

Nor do the Antinomians teach that faith is continuous — a life-long outgoing of the heart in glad obedience — but rather that its efficacy is concentrated into a single act of assent to a past fact, an act which forever and forever justifies.

We can easily predict the character of the edifice built upon a foundation so defective. On such a corner-stone we do not expect to find a love which purifies the heart and overcomes the world, a hunger and thirst after righteousness, an eager pursuit of holiness, and "pressing on unto perfection" (Heb. vi. 1, Rev. Ver.), and that "perfect love which casteth out all fear that has torment."

We find rather a dry, intellectual religion, tenacious of its speculative theory, indifferent to inward and outward holiness, and reveling in imaginary graces, or, rather, in the perfections of Christ falsely imputed to themselves, and preferring to keep the old man alive rather than his summary crucifixion, in order "that the body of sin may be destroyed." We find a system which is a great comfort to the backslider in heart and life, and a pleasant refuge to those who have lost their inheritance among the sanctified, into which they once entered when under better religious instruction.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Preaching Entire Sanctification

QUESTION: Will not an entirely sanctified preacher preach perfected holiness as a distinct blessing?

ANSWER: Yes, whenever he addresses believers who are panting after God. A wise fisher of men adapts his bait to the kind of fish he wishes to catch; to sinners and backsliders he preaches repentance, to hungry believers he preaches purity of heart inwrought by the Holy Spirit. In one of Wesley's conferences he raises this question, "In what manner should we preach sanctification?" His answer is, "Scarce at all to those who are not pressing forward; to those who are, always by way of promise; always drawing rather than driving." Jesus adapted his preaching to his hearers, holding back doctrines which his disciples could not then bear. Dr. C. G. Finney, writing at the close of his life, says: "I have never found that more than a few people appreciated and received those views of God and Christ and the fullness of his free salvation upon which my own soul still delights to feed. In every place where I have preached for many year I have found the churches in so low a state as to be utterly incapable of understanding and appreciating what I regard as the most precious truths of the whole Gospel. They are ignorant of the power of these truths. It is only now and then that I find it really profitable to the people of God to pour out to them the fulness that my own soul sees in Christ." Tactful preachers "give to each a portion in due season."

Steele's Answers pp. 88, 89.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Unspeakable Gift

QUESTION: Is the "unspeakable gift" spoken of by Paul eternal life?

ANSWER: Eternal life is included in the gift of the Son of God. See 1 John 5:11, 12, "And the witness is 
this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life." The life is more than existence; it is well-being; and to all persevering believers it is eternal well-being. Says Alford, "believing and having eternal life are commensurate; where faith is, the possession of eternal life is; and when the one remits, the other is forfeited." Everlasting life is through Christ the Redeemer; everlasting existence is through God the Creator.

Steele's Answers pp. 87, 88. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

On Reading the Mystics

QUESTION: Do you recommend the writings of the Mystics to those who seek the deepest Christian life?

ANSWER: All persons who are conscious of communion with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are called mystics by formalists and merely nominal Christians. Some of the so-called Mystics became extreme and used language more familiar than is usually addressed to God, but generally they are quite inspiring, such as Madam Guyon.

Steele's Answers p. 87. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Deeper Death?

QUESTION: A lady says, "After I was sanctified, I felt the need of a deeper death." Is there any warrant in the Scriptures for such teaching?

ANSWER: There are experiences of a highly emotional character which this good woman mistook for entire sanctification. The spirit sometimes moves on the surface of the soul without making any great moral change; in some eases, as King Saul and Balaam prophesying, there is no change at all.


Steele's Answers p. 87. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Witness to Entire Sanctification

QUESTION: Is there a definite witness to this grace [of entire sanctification]?

ANSWER: Yes, in general terms, I Cor. 2:21, "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God," There is no specific text. The Spirit shining in our hearts shines on his own work. The sun that prints the pictures reveals it to us.

Steele's Answers pp. 86, 87.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Condition for Entire Sanctification

QUESTION: What is the condition of [entire sanctification's] reception?

ANSWER: Faith is the door to all spiritual blessings. My faith, Eph.1:18,19, "That ye may know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe," and "all things are possible to him that believeth." John Inskip was accustomed to shout out in the camp, "There are two persons to whom all things are possible — God and the believer."

Steele's Answers p. 86. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

An Instantaneous Blessing

QUESTION: Can you prove this blessing [of entire sanctification] may be obtained instantaneously by the believer?

ANSWER: Says Joseph Agar Beet in his "Holiness as Understood by the Writers of the Bible": "It is worthy of notice that in the New Testament we never read expressly and unmistakably of sanctification as a gradual process. The very idea of holiness involves the idea of entirety." Beet thus argues from the use of the aorist tense, and the absence of the present, p. 59. 

Steele's Answers p. 86. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit

QUESTION: Does the baptism with the Holy Ghost effect entire sanctification?

ANSWER: The word "baptism" implies purification.When the word "fire' is added, perfect cleansing is indicated, by the figure of hendiadys, one idea expressed by two words, cleansing and fire. This denotes the complete and final purification, while being born of water and the Spirit denotes [an] initial cleansing less radical. The Pentecostal gift was cleansing in Acts 15:8, 9.

Steele's Answers pp. 85, 86.




EDITOR'S NOTE: This was the standard view in the Holiness movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries: Baptism with the Holy Spirit is another name for Entire Sanctification. This reflects the influence of the teachings of John Fletcher, as I argue here: Spirit Baptism: Wesleyanism & Pentecostalism

However, Dr. Steele seems to me to backpedal a bit on this issue when challenged by James Mudge's book Growth in Holiness Toward Perfection. His reply to Mudge is here: Baptism With the Holy Ghost. In this response, Steele goes so far as to say: "Hence we conclude that the phrase, 'baptism or fullness of the Spirit,' may mean something less than entire sanctification." He distinguishes ecstatic (or charismatic) fullness from ethical fulness. The one does not necessarily imply the other.

And, further down the page, Steele says: "Our author's chapter on the baptism of the Spirit might have been included in his discussion of irrelevant texts, on none of which do our standard theologians ground the doctrine of Christian perfection."

So, while it is true that Baptism with the Holy Spirit and Entire Sanctification were often spoken of interchangeably in the Holiness movement, their view did not rest upon this identification. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Freed From the Law?

QUESTION: In what sense are Christian believers freed from the Law?

ANSWER: (1.) It is true that all mankind are, by the atonement, forever freed from the necessity of pleading that we have perfectly kept the law, in order to acceptance with God. We are freed from the necessity of legal justification. Such a necessity would shut up a sinful race in eternal despair. We are freed from the law as the ground of justification. Our ground of justification is the blood of Christ shed for us.

(2.) Nor are true believers, who have received the Spirit of adoption, under the law as the impulse to service. They are not spurred on to activity by the threatened penalties of God's law. Love to the Law-giver has taken the place of fear of the law as a motive. This is specially true of those advanced believers, out of whom perfect love has cast all servile, tormenting fear. Before emerging into this experience, there is a blending of fear and love as motives to service. In this state the believer is not wholly delivered from legalism. But the law is put into the heart of the full believer, and its fulfillment is spontaneous and free. "I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my heart." The Septuagint Version, used by our Lord Jesus, reads: "I have run .... Since," etc. "Without the law," says St. Paul, as an outward yoke laid upon the neck, "but under law to Christ." Love to Christ absorbs into itself all the principles of the moral law, and prompts to their glad performance. Hence, "Love is the fulfillment of the law." This is the meaning of Rom. vii. 6, as translated in the Revision which corrects the blunder of King James' version from a faulty MS., making the law of God die, instead of the believer's dying to it; that is, ceasing to be actuated by its terrors, and becoming obedient from the new principle of love. "But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were holden; so that WE SERVE IN NEWNESS OF THE SPIRIT, and not in the oldness of the letter."

(3.) We are free from the law as the instrument of our sanctification. Christ has become our sanctification by purchasing with His blood the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is called "holy," not as a peculiar attribute, distinguishing Him from the Father and the Son, but because it is His great office to make men holy. We are "elect through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

(4.) Christ has freed us from the ceremonial law.

(5.) Believers in Christ are not delivered from the moral law, as the rule of life. The form of this law may change, but the essence is as immutable as its Author, out of whose bosom it goes forth.

A moral intelligence, whether man or angel, thus freed from his proper norm, would dash into ruins like a locomotive or an express train freed from the rails. As the rails give direction to the mighty momentum of the train, so is the law designed to direct our moral progress to a destiny of unspeakable blessedness. Disobedience derails and destroys. Hence the law is a blessing of unspeakable value. The soul that despises it is in imminent peril. The theology which teaches that men mount to a "happy condition," by ridding themselves of the beneficent guidance of the moral law, merits the condemnation of all Christians. Jesus is a Law-giver to control, as well as a Redeemer to save.

— Edited and adapted from A Substitute for Holiness, or Antinomianism Revived, Chapter 5.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Antinomian Error

Theological errors move in cycles, some times of very long periods. They resemble those comets of unknown orbits which occasionally dash into our solar system; but they are not as harmless. Often they leave moral ruin in their track. Since all Christian truth is practical, and aims at the moral transformation of men, all negations of that truth are deleterious; they not only obscure the truth and obstruct its purifying effect, but they positively corrupt and destroy souls.

This is specially true of errors which release men from obligation to the law of God. After St. Paul had demonstrated the impossibility of justification by works compensative for sin, and had established the doctrine of justification through faith in Christ which works by love and purifies the heart, there started up a class of teachers who drew from Paul's teachings the fallacious inference that the law of God is abolished in the case of the believer, who is henceforth delivered from its authority as the rule of life. Hence they became, what Luther first styled, Antinomians (Greek anti, against, and nomos, law).

We infer from Rom. iii. 8, 31; vi.1; Eph. v. 6; 2 Peter ii. 18, 19, and James ii.17-26, in which warnings are given against perversion of the truth as an excuse for licentiousness, that Antinomianism, in its grosser form, found place in the primitive church. All along the history of the Church, a revival of the cardinal doctrine of justification, by faith only, has been followed by a resurrection of Antinomianism, which Wesley defines as "the doctrine which makes void the law through faith." Those who aver that ultra-Calvinism is the invariable antecedent of Antinomianism, would be unwilling to accept the necessary inference that the apostle to the Gentiles was an ultra-Calvinist; yet it is true that the doctrines of Calvinism can be logically pushed to that conclusion. It is also true that other forms of doctrine which emphasize faith in Jesus Christ, as the sole ground of acceptance with God, are more or less liable to have the tares of Antinomianism spring up in their field.

The root of this error lies in a false view of the mediatorial work of Christ, that He performs for men the obedience which they ought to perform, and that God can justly demand nothing further from the delinquents. It is claimed that Christ's perfect virtues are reckoned to the believer in such a way as to excuse him for their absence; His chastity compensating for the absence of that moral quality in the believer. Hence, adultery and murder in King David, being compensated by the purity and benevolence of Jesus imputed to him in the mind of God, did not mar David's standing as righteous before God.

Theologians who state the doctrine of the atonement with proper safeguards, are careful to limit its vicarious efficacy to the passive obedience of the Son of God, His sufferings and death. His active obedience constitutes no part of His substitutional work. The germ of Antinomianism is found in the inclusion of the latter in the atonement. It is true that the God-man was actively obedient to the Father's will, but this obedience was personal, and not mediatorlal. Hence, every one justified through faith in the shed blood of Christ, is under obligation to render personal obedience to God's law. In this respect Jesus cannot be his proxy or representative.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fulfilling the Law of Love

Infirmities are failures to keep the law of perfect obedience given to Adam in Eden. This law no man on earth can keep, since sin has impaired the powers of universal humanity.

Sins are offenses against the law of love, the law of Christ, which is thus epitomized by John, "And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another" (I John iii. 23). Hence the Spirit convinces the world of sin, "because they believe not on Me." The sum total of God's commandments to men with the New Testament in their hands, is faith in Christ, attested by its proper fruits, good works. However dwarfed and shattered by sin that poor drunkard is, so long as he is this side of the gates of hell he is under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, who imparts to him the gracious ability to repent of sin, and to trust, love, and obey the Lord Jesus. His refusal is sin. So long as he has any capacity for love, however small, that capacity is called his whole heart. The law of love says to him in tones of authority, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." Hence every one is under obligation to be evangelically perfect. Refusal to love with the whole heart is the ground of condemnation, and not inevitable failures in keeping the law of Adamic perfection.

Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1 Chapter 7.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sin May Be Destroyed

QUESTION: What evidence does the Greek Testament afford that sin may be destroyed?

ANSWER: (1) The absence of all terms expressive of mere repression. (2) The use in Paul's epistles, crucify, cleanse, destroy (καταργέω, annihilate or abolish — Cremer and Thayer), circumcision without hands, and mortify or kill (Col. 3:5). (3) If this is not the doctrine of the New Testament, Christ's mission is a stupendous failure, because he does not destroy the works of the devil, and perfect holiness is impossible, either in this world or that to come.

Steele's Answers p. 85. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eternal Misery

QUESTION: What texts prove the eternal misery of the impenitent?

ANSWER: Dan. 12:12: "And some to shame and everlasting contempt." Matt. 25:46: "All these shall go away into eternal punishment." Rev. 20:10: "The beast and the false prophet," terms representing human beings, "shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." He who believes only the promises in the Bible, and disbelieves its threatenings, is not a true believer in Jesus Christ.

Steele's Answers p. 85.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Fall and Death

QUESTION: Did the fall of man destroy the immortality of the soul?

ANSWER: Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of a certain tree, lest they die. The death here threatened was not extinction of being or annihilation — a term not used in the Bible — but natural death, the separation of the spirit from the body, and spiritual death, the separation of the soul from God, the source of its well-being.

Steele's Answers pp. 84, 85.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Unconscious Faults

[In the Psalms we read:] "who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret [unconscious] faults. Keep back Thy servant, also, from presumptuous [willful, high-handed] sins; let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright [Hebrew, perfect], and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." 

Here the psalmist expects to fall into errors and unconscious faults, and he prays to be cleansed from them, but he prays to be kept from known and voluntary sins.

Hence it is evident that sins are incompatible with David's idea of perfection; and that unnoticed and involuntary errors or faults, are not. This distinction is strongly confirmed by an inquiry into the facts of David's life, and God's verdict respecting his character. In I Kings xv. 5, we are assured that he "did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that He commanded him, all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah, the Hittite." From all "presumptuous sins," save one, David was kept. Notwithstanding his infirmities, he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, with one sad and solitary exception.

But, when God sums up the life and character of King Asa, he makes no exception to his perfectness, declaring that "the heart of Asa was perfect all his days" (2 Chron. xv. 17). Yet we find that he failed to perfect his reform by taking away all the high places of idolatrous worship: that he was angry with Hanani, who rebuked him for his lack of trust in God against Baasha, King of Israel, and that he put him in prison, and oppressed some of the people, who were probably regarded as factious and disloyal in their sympathy with the imprisoned prophet, whose rectitude of purpose Asa had entirely, yet innocently misapprehended. In addition, the sacred historian has recorded another infirmity, common with some of the holiest men now on the earth, who employ physicians for bodily ailments, and doubt that the gift of healing is still available — "In his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians" (2 Chron. xvi. 10-12). Doubtless, many of his contemporaries saw great imperfections in these outward acts, these mistaken judgments and severities in administration, but the Lord, who looks at the heart, chisels on Asa's tombstone this enviable epitaph, "Perfect all his days." We aspire to no better. Is it impossible for us to achieve under the Gospel what it was possible to accomplish under Judaism? If so, what has Christ procured, and what has the Holy Spirit bestowed, which should make His dispensation more glorious?

When we look into the Gospel we find Jesus Christ making [this] very distinction... Of the traitor who willfully betrayed Him, He said. "It had been good for that man if he had not been born;" but to the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane He hinted no destiny of remediless woe in these tender words. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Judas had sinned; Peter, James, and John had been overcome by an infirmity. Paul makes the same distinction in these two precepts, "Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others may fear" (I Tim. v. 20). "We, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak" (Rom. xv. 1).

The moral sense of mankind makes a distinction not in degree, but in kind, between forging a note, and falling asleep in a prayer meeting, or forgetting to keep a promise, or disproportioning food to exercise, or indulging too long in sleep, or having an impure dream, or a wandering thought in church, or treating a neighbor coldly under a misapprehension of his worthiness. The universal conscience discriminates between a sin and a weakness or an error.

 — Edited from Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1, Chapter 7.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Pope

QUESTION: When was the first Pope made in the Roman Catholic Church, and how was the papacy begun? 

The Roman Catholic contention is that Peter was designated by Christ as the earthly head of the universal church, and under Divine guidance Peter, accompanied by Paul, went to Rome, where he presided as bishop twenty-five years, from A. D. 41 to 67. But when we ask for the scriptural proof of events so fundamental to church history, to the question of the genuineness of modern Christianity, and of the way of salvation, we find not a particle of evidence that Peter was ever in Rome, or Italy, or Europe. The Acts of the Apostles begins with giving Peter prominence, but soon drops him as not specially important, and notes minutely the history and journeys of Paul till his death in Rome. The Papacy seems to have arisen on this wise: Rome was the dominant city in the world. The church in Rome came to be regarded as the most important and its bishop the highest in dignity. To sustain this dignity the legend of Peter as first bishop was concocted and repeated to subsequent generations of Romans ambitious for the greatness of their city, till it became an accredited tradition. To find a historical basis, fabulous histories were written and genuine annals were interpolated by putting "et Petrus" (and Peter) after the name of Paul in Rome. Thus a stupendous falsehood was foisted upon the church and the world. But it took several centuries, and the invention of the Isidorean Decretals, forged decrees of early Christian Ecumenical Councils, to make the bishop of Rome king of all other bishops and to make his diocese absorb all of their dioceses.

Steele's Answers pp. 83, 84.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On the Temptation of Jesus

QUESTION: (1) Does temptation imply a desire on our part to do wrong? (2) If so, was Jesus tempted in that manner? (3) Had Jesus freedom of will, so that he could have fallen? 

ANSWER: Temptation is an appeal, not to any desire to do wrong, but to our wish for immediate happiness and for the avoidance of present suffering, as hunger in the case of Jesus in the wilderness. His desire for food was innocent and his gratification of it by miracle would not in itself have been sinful if it had not been in violation of his Father's purpose that his Son should exactly observe our human conditions of service and put forth no more power to shield himself from pain than we have. Hence he wrought no miracle for himself even on the cross, when he could have commanded to his rescue more angels than the Roman Emperor had soldiers. To deny perfect free agency  to Jesus would degrade him below the lowest man he came to save. It would divest him of all his moral attributes and make him a machine. His holiness while on the earth was certain, but not the result of necessity. He was holy not because he could not sin, but because he would not. God's holiness is the same. He is a free agent, always abstaining from wrongdoing. There is no risk to the universe in the perfect freedom of the Father and the Son to violate the moral law grounded not on the will of either, but in the very nature of things. When it is said, "god cannot lie," it is not a natural "cannot," but a moral one like that of Joseph when solicited by Mrs. Potiphar (Gen. 39:12). The distinction between a Calvinist and an Arminian lies in answer to this question, "Is a thing right becasue God does it, ot does he do it because it is right?"

Steele's Answers pp. 82, 83.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bearing Fruit

QUESTION: What does Jesus mean by "fruit" in John 15:2: "Every branch that beareth fruit he cleanseth it that it may bear more fruit"? Bruce says, "the spread of the Gospel."

ANSWER: 1, holiness; 2, service. The two are inseparable, for the first is the preparation for the second, and the second without the first is a failure. Holiness implies love, and love must find expression in the spread of the good news. Verse 16 is a proof of the first, and John 4:36 is a proof that fruit includes service. Says Wesley in his note on bearing more fruit: "Purity and fruitfulness help each other. This is one of the noblest rewards God can bestow on former acts of obedience to make us yet more holy and fit for farther and more eminent service." A decline in the spirituality of the church is always attended by a decline in its aggressiveness and converting power.

Steele's Answers pp. 81, 82. 


Monday, October 28, 2013

Has the Kingdom Come?

QUESTION: Has the Kingdom of God been established?

ANSWER: it was initially established on the day of Pentecost. When the Son of God "had overcome the sharpness of death, he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers." The kingdom of God is the same as the kingdom of heaven. It is invisible. All who submit to Christ are it's subjects. However, in some of Christ's parables the kingdom of heaven is apparently identified with the visible church containing the good and the bad, the fares and the wheat, the wise and the foolish virgins. It is spoke of as a drag-net enclosing fishes worthless and good. 

Steele's Answers p. 81. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Justification, Then Sanctification

It took eight years of earnest Bible-study for two young men in England, one of whom was John Wesley, to make the discovery, "that men are justified before they are sanctified." "God then," while they were still in eager pursuit of heart purity, "thrust them out to raise a holy people."

This incident in the life of the founder of Methodism would not be deemed worthy of a place on the first page of the book of Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church over the signature of every one of her American bishops, living and dead, if it were not for the vital truth connected with it, "that men are justified before they are sanctified," and that the great purpose of this great religious movement is to raise a holy people by spreading scriptural holiness over all lands.

A clarified theology lies at the basis of the incandescent zeal of early Methodism. As Luther cleared the doctrine of justification of the rubbish which Romanism had piled upon it, burying it out of sight of despairing millions, so Wesley cleared the doctrine of sanctification of the errors which for ages had thickly encrusted it, purification by works, by growth, by imputation, by death, and by purgatorial fires after death. He taught believers to magnify the intercessory office of our adorable risen Saviour in procuring and sending down the Holy Spirit in pentecostal power to flow through the ages a river of water, thoroughly cleansing all who will plunge therein.

Milestone Papers, Part 1, Chapter 6.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Transition Points in the Life of Abraham

There were three remarkable transition points in the religious development of Abraham.

The first was separation from his kindred and country at the Divine command. The call of Abraham is typical of that call of the Holy Spirit, which sooner or later comes to every sinner, to turn away from all known sin as a preparation for saving faith in Christ.

The second point of transition in Abraham's life was his justification by faith. He believed in Jehovah; and He counted it to him for righteousness. St. Paul cites this as a conspicuous instance of justification by faith under the old covenant. Abraham had exercised faith in obeying the call to separation; but it was what theologians style prevenient rather than saving faith.

Twenty-four years after Abraham's first call, and several years after his justification, he passed the third and final transition in his religious career, which in modern parlance would be called his spiritual perfection. When he was ninety years old and nine (Gen xvii.1) Jehovah disclosed to him His almightiness under the name of El-Shaddai, Almighty God, as the ground of a new commandment, "Be thou perfect."

With this injunction was the institution of circumcision as necessary to the perfection required, demonstrating typically that spiritual circumcision or entire sanctification is the gateway into Christian perfection, or pure love, styled by John "perfect love" which "casteth out" all "tormenting fear." For in "the self-same day" in which Abraham was commanded to walk before God and be perfect, he submitted to the painful rite of circumcision, the removal, in Hebrew conception, of that bodily impurity with which he was born. Here we find a striking type of original or birth sin, denied by all the self-styled modern liberalists, put away by "the circumcision of Christ" through the agency of the sanctifying Spirit, not by a gradual outgoing of native depravity, but by the heroic treatment of instantaneous excision. Hence the doctrine of spiritual circumcision is a two-edged sword, cutting away Pelagianism with one edge and gradualism with the other. The first is the denial of inbred or birth sin, and the second is the denial of its instantaneous extinction when faith lays hold of Him who "is able to save unto the uttermost."

Some persons may insist that there was a fourth crisis in the life of the father of the faithful — the supreme test of his faith in obeying the command to offer up Isaac. It was a crisis, but not a transition from one state of grace to another. God found Abraham perfect in loyalty and love, and demonstrated this fact to all the coming generations of Bible-readers. The three marked epochs in his life were his separation, his justification, and his entire sanctification, the beginning of his perfect walk before Jehovah and not before misjudging mortals.

Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1, Chapter 5.

Friday, October 4, 2013

When Was the Holy Spirit Given?

QUESTION: Harmonize the following: "Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost." "Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." "For the Holy Ghost was not given because Jesus was not yet glorified." How could men be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was given?

ANSWER: We believe that the Holy Spirit is Divine. Hence he has by his essential presence always been in the world as the author of all the piety in the ages before Christ. But on the day of Pentecost he became officially present. In the mysterious economy of the Trinity, he came to fill the office of the Paraclete. His great work is to glorify Christ, to keep him ever in the minds and hearts of men. Without this office of the Spirit, Jesus would long ago have been forgotten by men. This constitutes the chief difference between the work of the Spirit in the Old Testament and in the New. He has now much better tools to work with, all the facts in Christ's earthly life and all the truths he uttered. 

Steele's Answers pp. 79, 80

Saved to the Uttermost

QUESTION: "What is the meaning of "uttermost" in Heb. 7:25: ''He is able to save to the uttermost,'' etc.

ANSWER: It refers not to extent of time, but the thoroughness of the salvation. The Greek (παντελης) properly means ''unto completeness,'' perfectly, utterly. See R. V. Margin. "Well does Delitzsch say, "Christ is able to save in every way, in all respects, unto the uttermost; so that every want and need, in all its breadth and depth, is utterly done away." He calls it "an all-embracing salvation for those who in faith make use of the way of access which he has opened by the removal of the barrier of sin."

Steele's Answers p. 79

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Can Love Be Commanded?

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deut. vi. 4, 5).

We are here met by the question, "Can genuine love be evoked by command? Is it not the free, spontaneous outflow of the heart towards the object for which it has affinity? How then can a soul void of all affinity for God, love Him supremely?" This question is more important than the theological puzzle, the origin of sin in a holy universe, inasmuch as the cure of an evil is of far higher interest to the sufferer than its genesis. If we turn to Romans viii. 7, we shall be appalled at the vastness of the multitude to whom the great command of both the Law and the Gospel is an utter impossibility, "because the carnal mind is enmity against God." But before we rashly accuse God of injustice, in reaping obedience where He has not sown ability, let us further read our Bibles and get the whole of the Divine purpose in this case. It is possible that a scheme of wondrous mercy may be found instead of severity. It is remarkable that most of those who find fault with God, have the least knowledge of His revelation. Turn again to the Old Testament at Deut. xxx. 6, and the difficulty vanishes, and God's moral character is vindicated. He proposes, by a direct supernatural interposition of His almightiness, with man's free consent, to perform a piece of spiritual surgery, to cut away the carnality which prevents love and invites enmity, and to clear the way for the natural up-springing of love, filling to the brim every faculty of intelligence and sensibility. "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live," or have real and internal well-being. Carnality in the least degree is obstructive of love of the purest and most perfect kind.


— from Mile-Stone Papers Part 1, Chapter 5.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Two Testaments, One Religion

The Old Testament and the New contain not two different religions, but one in different stages of development. Well did Augustine say: "In the Old Testament the New lies hidden; in the New Testament the Old lies open." The essential principal of Judaism and of Christianity is the same supreme love to God. The Great Teacher and Law-giver sums up the law, and the prophets, and all human duty in this great word LOVE. It is the natural and necessary inference from the unity of God, as opposed to polytheism; hence it follows the "Shema," the first words every Hebrew child is taught to speak, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deut. vi. 4, 5).

— from Mile-Stone Papers Part 1, Chapter 5.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An Ante-Pentecostal State

It is a painful fact that many who profess faith in Jesus Christ, and evince a degree of spiritual life, are practically in the condition of the first twelve believers in Ephesus; they have not in the depths of their own hearts so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." They are living in the ante-pentecostal state, in the rudimentary dispensation of John. They do not know "the exceeding greatness of Christ's power to us-ward who believe." The Credo, "I believe in the Holy Ghost," is on their lips, but it is as ineffectual for spiritual transfiguration as the Binomial Theorem. Their thirsty souls stand at the well of living water, and let down their buckets, and draw them up empty, not because the well is dry, but because their rope is not long enough to reach the water. An orthodox creed lying dead in the intellect is like a dry bucket hanging midway down the well. Merely intellectual believers lack a vigorous, appropriating faith.

— from Mile-Stone Papers Part 1, Chapter 4.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Is Humor Forbidden?

QUESTION: Is all facetiousness forbidden in Eph. 5:4: "nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting."

ANSWER: From the connection we infer that jesting is here used in a bad sense, as scurrility, ribaldry, and low wit. There is a good sense which is not forbidden — pleasantry, humor and facetiousness. 

Steele's Answers p. 79. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Agape: to God, or to People?

QUESTION: when the noun agape, love, is used in the epistles, without any expressed object, does it mean love to God or love to men?

ANSWER: It is generally used of love to men, especially to the brethren. We know that it is thus used in 1 Cor. 13, from the evil environments which love is said to surmount in verses 3-7. 

Steele's Answers pp. 78, 79. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

One Self or Two?

QUESTION: Is there a self-life that is holy, and a sinful self?

ANSWER: There is but one self, not two. If this one self leans toward sin, it needs to be changed so as to lean toward holiness. St. Paul calls these two different states, the old man and the new. Hence some erroneously think there are two persons. When we speak of self-crucifixion we do not mean self-annihilation, but the change of the soul's gravitation from downward to upward, or from being self-centered to God-centered. The self which bears the full image of Christ does not need to be nailed to the cross. 

Steele's Answers p. 78.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Penetrating Power of God's Truth

QUESTION: Explain Heb. 4:12: "God's Message is a living and active power, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing it's way till it penetrates soul and spirit — not joints only, but the very marrow — and detecting the inmost thoughts and purposes of the mind." (The Twentieth Century Version.) 

ANSWER: This excellent version gives the idea not of the separating, but of the pervasive and penetrating power of God's truth accompanied by the illuminating and purifying spirit. In the priestly examination of an animal for sacrifice, the outside was examined and then the flesh after it was skinned, and finally the backbone was cleft with a cleaver from end to end, dividing the spinal cord so as to detect the least speck of disease. The writer of this epistle uses this priestly practice to illustrate the office of the Holy Spirit in the detection of inward impurity.

Steele's Answers pp. 77, 78. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sonship to God

In the interest of clearness of thought and in vindication of Christian truth, let us see first what we mean by the phrases "Sons of God," "Children of God," and "Fatherhood of God."

Strictly speaking, there is but one Person so linked to God by the genetic tie as to be "the Son of God." Hence He is "the only begotten son." His being is grounded on the Divine Nature and is without time limits. He is the eternal Son. All other beings are grounded not on the nature of God, but upon His will, within time limits. They are creatures. The Divine Logos is never spoken of in the Holy Scriptures as a creature. God is never called the creator, but the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ. His sonship is unique and unshared by any other being in the universe.

Sonship to God, when applied to others, is figurative, as is also the Fatherhood of God.

What then is signified when an archangel, or a man, is called a son of God? There are several things in the relation of a human son to a father which might be the foundation of this metaphor, such as actual descent and possession of the identical nature — which we have disclaimed for all creatures — or resemblance, imitation, obedience, love; qualities which may be summed up in the word likeness. This likeness is both natural and moral. The natural likeness of the human creature to the Creator consists in personality, intelligence, a moral sense, implying freedom and spirituality, i.e., Spirit is the essential principle. The moral likeness exists when man possesses qualities like God's moral attributes, love, holiness, justice, wisdom and truth. But since the moral attributes eclipse the natural in excellence, likeness to God is predicated only of the possession of the moral qualities. Satan, though still like God in his natural attributes, is in no scriptural sense a son of God, because of his lack of the moral likeness.

This is true of all unregenerate men. They are not sons of God. Christ plainly told certain Jews that they were of their father, the devil, because they had taken on his moral characteristics. The very taproot of modern liberalism, universal salvation on the ground of the universal Fatherhood of God, lies in a neglect of these scriptural distinctions, and in making the divine Fatherhood natural and genetic, like human fatherhood, and in reasoning from the latter to the former on this wise, "as no human father would be so cruel as to banish his child from his presence forever, much less will the divine Father." The fallacy lies in the assumption, that a wicked man is a child of God, when he is really a child of Satan, because he has taken on his moral likeness. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews declares that certain men "are bastards, and not sons." It will not do to literalize or carnalize the terms "son" and "Father," in speaking of man's relation to God. For the outcome will be universal salvation on the ground of a fondling sentimentalism, an unholy love on the part of God, instead of moral likeness to Him in holy character.

Another error is expressed in the maxim, "Once in grace, always in grace," based upon the idea, Once a child, always a child. Substitute, "Once like God, always like God," and the fallacy immediately stands out to view, for Satan once bore the moral image of his Maker. If sonship to God is pressed as a proof of the impossibility of becoming a son of perdition, why may not sonship to the devil be alleged to be an insuperable barrier to becoming a son of God?

Are our positions sustained by the Bible? We reply that in the New Testament sonship is the peculiar and distinguishing privilege of those who by faith receive Jesus Christ (John i. 12), and it consists in conformity to the image of the Son of God (Rom. viii. 29), and in no case do the words, "Sons of God," "Children," and "Father," indicate anything but a spiritual likeness.

Once, and once only, St. Paul, while preaching on Mars Hill, taking natural religion as his starting point, so as to stand on common ground with his pagan audience, speaks of the human race in the words of a Greek poet, as the offspring of God. Even here he is careful to limit the metaphor to likeness in those natural characteristics in which men consciously differ from "gold or silver or stone." For they are conscious of freedom and moral accountability.

In all the New Testament the terms "son," "child," "sonship," "adoption," and "Father," when applied to the relation of men to God, signify a spiritual likeness enstamped in outline by the Holy Spirit at that religious crisis figuratively called the new birth, and in completeness at the subsequent crisis of entire sanctification. Utterly foreign to the Gospels and the Epistles, and to apostolic preaching, as reported in the Acts of the Apostles, is salvation on the ground of the natural fatherhood of God. Such a doctrine would "make the cross of Christ of none effect," because it would be needless in the scheme of salvation.

— edited from Mile-Stone Papers Part 1 Chapter 2.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Together With Jesus

Jesus was begotten of the Holy Ghost; the sons of God are born of the Spirit. Jesus was circumcised the eighth day: the real, spiritual seed of Abraham have their circumcision not in the flesh, but in the spirit, being cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit. Jesus, after a period of religious development, was baptized with the Holy Spirit; so are all those children of God who tarry in Jerusalem with persevering faith. Jesus had the certificate of His sonship in the repeated utterance of His Father, "This is My beloved Son;" so does the child of God hear the attestation of his divine adoption prompting the joyful shout, Abba, Father:—

"The Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God."

Jesus was tempted in all points; so are we. He was victorious: "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world;" so are we victors: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Jesus was crucified; so are all those sons of God who count not the self-life dear unto them. "I have been crucified with Christ [and so remain]: it is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me." [Alford's Version.] The primal son of God was buried. Thus was his death solemnly certified. So does the child of God die unto sin, and the water poured in holy baptism, symbolizing the outpoured Spirit, seals and ratifies his death unto sin. Jesus arose from the dead; the sons of God arise to newness of life by a spiritual resurrection, soon to be followed by a quickening of their mortal bodies because the Spirit has dwelt within them. [Rom. viii. 14, margin.] Jesus ascended; so shall we be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Our File-leader has been glorified; so shall we, who have borne the image of the earthly, bear the image of the heavenly. Our elder Brother has sat down on His Father's throne as a fore-gleam of our wonderful enthronement as kings and priests: "Unto him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." Once more, Jesus Christ will judge the universe, and at His side will sit His brethren as associate judges: "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?"

These points of similarity of the Son of God to His brethren, the sons of God, are strikingly summarized in

THE SEVEN "TOGETHERS"

in the Scripture, which show the wondrous identification of the Lord Jesus Christ with believers, in all the experiences of the spiritual life and its rewards. They indicate the benevolent purpose of God in our redemption, and His plan in effecting that purpose. It is affirmed of us by the Spirit, in the Word, that we are —

  1. Crucified together with Christ (Gal. ii. 20).
  2. Quickened together with Christ (Col. ii. 13).
  3. Raised together with Christ (Eph. ii. 6).
  4. Seated together with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. ii. 6).
  5. Sufferers together with Christ (Rom. viii. 17).
  6. Heirs together with Christ (Rom. viii. 17).
    And that we are to be—
  7. Glorified together with Christ (Rom. viii. 17).


"Together with the Lord —
What bursts of light I see!
Light, life, and joy are in that word;
'As He is, so are we.'"
Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1 Chapter 1.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Can Repentance Based on Fear be Genuine?

QUESTION: Can repentance be genuine, if based upon hope of reward or fear of punishment? Is the following sentence true, "Virtue founded on fear is only vice in a fit of dejection"?

ANSWER: this kinds like the distant echo of the New England Hopkinsian doctrine that holiness is disinterested benevolence, that the least regard for our own well-being is inconsistent with true holiness, and repentance is not genuine if it does not include willingness to be damned for the glory of God. In the first quarter of the last century, a boy named Mark Traffon, in a Calvinian inquiry meeting in Maine, was asked if he was willing to be sent to hell forever for God's glory, and replied: "No, sir, I have decided objections." He went to hear an Arminian preacher, was converted, and became an eminent minister. Moses had respect to the recompense of reward, and Noah, moved by fear, prepared for himself an ark. In Christ's preaching he perpetually appealed to men's hopes and fears, especially to the latter. He uttered more alarm truth and said more about hell fire than any other person in the Bible. Many modern preachers seem to be wiser than the great Teacher. They think that the doctrine of retribution is not promotive of genuine piety, and for this reason drop it from their sermons, and then wonder why sinners are not converted, and comfort themselves with the declaration that "the times have changed and the age of revivals is past." Says Bishop Butler in his Analogy: "Veracity, justice, regard to God's authority, and our own chief interest, are coincident; and each separately, a just principle. To begin life from either of them, and persist, produces that very character which corresponds to our relations to God, and secures happiness."Repentance from the lowest motive leads to the higher and ultimately to the highest.

Steele's Answers pp. 76, 77.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Cremation of the Earth

QUESTION: When will the cremation of the earth take place (see 2 Peter 3:10)?

ANSWER: Ask an easier question. The Creator of the earth will burn it up when he has no better use for it.

Steele's Answers p. 76.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Is Original Sin a Biblical Doctrine?

QUESTION: Are the phrases "original sin," "birth sin," "inbred sin" found in the Bible?

ANSWER: No. But a doctrine may be in the Bible while the term invented by men to express it is not scriptural, such as Trinity, sacrament, eucharist. Atonement is not found in the Revised New Testament. Theologians, feeling the need of a term to express racial bent or inclination towards sin inherited from Adam and Eve, called it original sin, using the term "sin" in an improper sense, because "sin properly so called," says J. Wesley, "is the willful transgression of a known law of God." Hence Arminians, whenever they use any one of these three phrases, are obligated to disclaim the elements of volition and guilt, which constitute the essence of sin. Much perplexity and many theological discussions would have been avoided if a different term had been invented to denote the racial trend towards sin. Paul used the terms "flesh" and "carnal" in 1 Cor. 3:1-3, and Gal. 5:17 in describing Christians in whom there was still lingering the proclivity to sin. But this word has about a half dozen meanings, mostly good, so that its use to denote badness is very confusing. Hence many speakers and writers decline to use the term so equivocal. The phrase "sin which dwelleth in me," occurs in Rom. 7:17 as descriptive, not of a regenerated person, but of a convicted moralist, personated by Paul, a character striving to realize his ideal of righteousness without faith in Jesus Christ. If real sin dwells in a man, he is not born of God, but is a child of the devil, according to 1 John 3:9, 10.

Steele's Answers pp. 75, 76.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Unbelieving Spouse

QUESTION: What is the meaning of "sanctified" and "holy" in 1 Cor. 7:14: "For the unbeliving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy"?

ANSWER: When either the wife or the husband becomes a Christian and the other party continues in the marriage relation, consenting to the religious change, he or she is measurably withdrawn from the contamination of heathenism and brought under the saving influence of Gospel truth and the Holy Spirit. This is the peculiar sense of "sanctified" and "holy" here used. The unconverted party is presumably on the road to salvation, and the children escape a pagan education and learn the way of salvation.

Steele's Answers pp. 74, 75.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Perfect Love

Perfect love constitutes evangelical perfection, the sum of all duties, the bond which binds all the virtues into unity.

As we stand midway between the perfect estate of paradise lost and of paradise regained, regretting the one and aspiring to the other, but excluded so long as we are in the flesh, our gracious God, through the mediation of Christ, commissions the Holy Ghost to come down and open the gates of a new paradise of love made perfect, love casting out all fear, love fully shed abroad in our hearts.

Love is the fulfilling of the law. To fulfil is perfectly to keep, not the old Adamic law, but the law of the new Adam, the Lord from heaven. "Fulfil ye the law of Christ, the royal law of liberty." This law is graciously adapted to our diminished moral capacity, dwarfed and crippled by original and actual sin.

All there is left of us after sin has spread its blight may be filled with the fullness of God. Every faculty may be energized, every capacity be filled, and every particle and fibre of the being be pervaded with the love of Christ, so that the totality of our nature may be subsidized in the delightful employment of love, attesting itself by obedience, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks. Says Wesley, "I know of no other Christian perfection."

The hypercritical may criticize the term, and say that perfection cannot be predicated of anything human, and some advocates of entire sanctification may unwisely substitute other terms supposed to be less offensive, such as "the higher life," "the rest of faith," and "full trust," and other words which man's wisdom teacheth, but it will be found that they all fail to convey the exact and definite idea of the word "perfection" which the Holy Ghost teacheth. This signifies not only our justification — sometimes called the imputation of Christ's righteousness, though improperly — but our inherent completeness in Christ, who is our sanctification as well as our righteousness or justification. The term perfection is the best word in the English language for expressing that state of spiritual wholeness into which the soul has entered, when the last inward foe is conquered, and the last distracting force is harmonized with the mighty love of Christ, and every crevice of the nature is filled with love, and every energy is employed in the delightful service of the adorable Saviour, and the soul is as "dead indeed unto sin" as the occupants of the Stone Chapel grave-yard are to the tide of Boston business and pleasure which rolls along Tremont Street.

However fractional the man may be in all other respects, he is in one sense an integer: love pervades the totality of his being. Early in divine revelation do we find Jehovah pointing to this state, saying to Abraham. "Walk before me, and be thou perfect;" and to Moses, "Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God." In many other places the same Hebrew word is used in describing character, but three times it is unfortunately translated by 'sincerely' or 'in sincerity', twelve times by 'upright' and 'uprightly', once by 'undefiled', as "Blessed are the undefiled [perfect] in the way," and once by 'sound' "Let my heart be sound [perfect] in thy statutes. Forty-five times the Israelites are commanded to bring sacrifices without blemish; and every time the word should have been translated perfect, God thus teaching by impressive symbols that the heart of the offerer must be perfect before God. Leviticus is the book of all the Old Testament wherein is typically taught the need of inward cleansing, whose end is holiness, whose tabernacle is holy, whose vessels are holy, whose offerings are most holy, whose priests are holy, and their garments are holy, and whose people are holy, because their God is holy. Opening the New Testament, we find the Greek word τέλειος, perfect, as descriptive of fitness for the kingdom of God, dropping from the lips of Christ and from the pen of St. Paul seventeen times, while the cognate noun perfection is twice used, and the verb to perfect fourteen times. This examination shows that the Spirit of inspiration had a deep design, persistently followed from the book of Genesis to the epistles of John. That design is to set forth the holiness of the service demanded of us, and the perfectibility of the Christian under the dispensation of the Spirit. For this perfection is not on a level with man's natural powers, but is the work of the Sanctifier through the mediation and blood of Jesus Christ, who "by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." By one offering he has procured the Sanctifier, who, so long as the world shall stand, is able by His office of cleansing to perfect believers, and present them complete in Christ Jesus.

It is easy now to see why perfection is both affirmed and denied in the Scriptures, with respect to the same individuals. God styles Job perfect, while Job himself repudiates that adjective. Compare chapter i. 1, with ix. 20. Thus David sees the "end of all perfection," and soon after calls on all men to "mark the perfect man," and note his peaceful death (Psa. cxix. 96; xxxvii, 37). St. Paul seems to blow hot and cold with the same breath, when he denies that he is perfect, and then assumes that he is (Phil. iii, 12-15); and St. James contradicts himself in the same way in chapter iii. 2. The explanation is easy. Legal perfection is disclaimed, while evangelical perfection is claimed. In other words, perfect love-service can be rendered; while perfect law-service is beyond the power of moral cripples to render.

— adapted from Mile-Stone Papers Part 1, Chapter 1.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Predestined to Holiness

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ; according as He hath chosen us [believers] in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love."
— Ephesians i. 3, 4.

The doctrine of predestination always has reference to holiness. God, by an immutable decree, has made entire sanctification the goal attainable by all believers; from eternity He has determined that those who, by a free compliance with the conditions, are adopted into His family, "should be conformed to the image of His Son," not only in the distant future, but now, in the present life. "As He is, so are we in this world."

The broad line of demarcation between the children of God and the children of the devil lies in this one word, sin. "Whosoever has been born of God [and so continues] is not sinning, because His seed, the new principle of love, remaineth in him, and he is not able to be sinning, [as a habit,] because he has been born of God" [and so remains]. The significance of the Greek tenses is shown in the parenthetic words, the perfect tense denoting an act whose effect remains to the present time, and the present tense indicating an habitual or oft-recurring act.

A God-born soul is not in a sinning state, because he has admitted a new and dominant motive, antagonistic to sin, to take up its permanent abode behind his will. Its attitude cannot be hostile to the law so long as it is swayed by love to the lawgiver. He may in an unwary moment be surprised by some single act of sin, for which there is a merciful resort to the High-priest above. "If any man sin [aorist tense denoting a single act] we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the just." A perfectly holy soul, whether an angel in his first estate, or Adam in Eden, or a blood-washed believer, may fall away from his order by a decisive and permanent wrong choice, a choice which is the inexplicable mystery discussed for ages, the origin of sin. But John stoutly affirms that permanent sonship and continual sinning are contradictions which cannot be combined in one character. A man cannot be sober and drunken, honest and thieving, chaste and licentious, at the same time. But the temperate man may become an inebriate and die in the gutter; and the honest man become a thief and die in a prison.

How this stupendous perversion of the gospel of purity, that the sons of God are constantly sinning, became so widespread can be explained only on the theory that Satan himself has turned Bible expositor, teaching that "no man since the fall of Adam, even by the aid of divine grace, can perfectly keep God's law, but daily breaks it in thought, word, and deed." This fallacy of the Westminster Catechism still imposes upon intelligent minds, because they fail to see that the Adamic law has been replaced by the evangelical requirement of love as the fulfilling of the law. There is no sin where perfect love reigns. This may consist with innumerable defects, infirmities, and theoretical and practical errors. To a superficial observer these may look like sins, but a deeper inspection shows that they lack the essential characteristic, namely, the voluntary element. In ethics it is an axiomatic truth that volition is an attribute of sin as an act, or sin which entails guilt. Yet even involuntary deviations from rectitude need the atonement.

— Adapted from Mile-Stone Papers Part 1 Chapter 1.