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.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Conscript Christians

Let me illustrate the difference between law-service and love-service by the conscript and the volunteer soldier.

The impulse which thrusts the former into the field is fear of the law reinforcing his feeble patriotism. When the news comes that his name has been drawn out from the wheel of fortune, and that the strong arm of the law has seized him to push him into the front of the battle, his cheeks turn pale and his heart sinks within him. Nevertheless, he puts on the military uniform, and shoulders his knapsack, though it seems to weigh a ton. Reluctantly he leaves the old homestead, and wearily journeys to the conscript camp, strongly tempted to slip away from the officer and escape from the country; but the fear of the law, and his weak love for his native land, overcome this temptation. He murmurs at the hardness of his rations, discomforts of the camp, the severity of the discipline. Yet he bravely does his duty. The law, like a bayonet behind him, drives him into the battle, where he fights like a hero. Yet he does not enjoy the privations and perils of the service. He cannot overcome its irksomeness. Every hour he wishes that he could avoid the disagreeable duties of a soldier's life.

He sees the volunteer enduring the weary marches with patriot songs, and with cheerful smiles rushing into battle as to a banquet. He sees him brought back mortally wounded, borne on a stretcher, blessing the old flag of his regiment as it fades away from his glassy eye, thanking God for a country worth bleeding and dying for. The conscript notes with shame the contrast between the spirit of this volunteer and his own cold, apathetic, reluctant service, and hides his blushing face from his comrades with the earnest, unspoken prayer for the inspiration of nobler feelings toward his country.

Let us suppose that the prayer of the conscript is heard, and that a baptism of patriotism descends upon his soul. Now his country stands before him as the chief among ten thousand nations, and altogether lovely. He gladly grasps his rifle and runs with eager delight to the thickest of the fight to drive back the rebels who are trampling beneath their feet the glorious old flag, the emblem of the object dearest to his heart, and for the honor of which he would gladly pour out his heart's blood. He has passed through a crisis in his military life. A new motive power has taken up its abode behind his will — love instead of fear — and it throws a halo about the hardest tasks, changes suffering into enjoyment, and transfigures death itself into an envied martyrdom. He is a new man. The temptation to desert, which once cost him a struggle to resist, never troubles him now. His rations are wondrously palatable, and his knapsack is a softer bolster for his head as he sweetly slumbers between the cornhills, than the downy pillow awaiting his return in his distant home.

He has found out the secret that love knows no burdens, feels no hardships, in the service of its object. If the term for which he is drafted should expire today, instead of throwing up his cap for joy he would find a recruiting officer and re-enlist for the whole war, bounty or no bounty, for he means to fight till the last rebel lays down his arms, and the land of his fathers is redeemed.

Now, my young friend, do you see the point of this illustration? There are multitudes of conscript Christians pressed into Christ's army by the constraint of the law. They render acceptable service, and will be rewarded for their fidelity, as the grateful country gives pensions alike to the drafted and volunteer soldier, and indiscriminately decorates their graves. But the volunteer enjoyed his service, finding the battle-field a delight because it afforded him an opportunity to suffer for his loved country, while the conscript, just as faithful in the outward act of obedience, never tasted joy in his irksome toils and sacrifices. Which kind of a Christian do you choose to be? You may serve all your life under the constraint of law, or you may serve with gladness in the way of God's commandments under the mighty impulse of love, perfect love, which casteth out all servile, tormenting fear.

— edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 20.