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, 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.