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.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sanctification and Pentecost

The following letter, together with the printed article to which it refers, has been sent to the Question Box, with the suggestion that it be answered in a separate article:

"In the Evangelical Messenger, the organ of the Evangelical Association, of Oct. 5, the editor states that a minister says he recently heard a young preacher of said church in a sermon declare that the disciples did not receive the blessing of sanctification on the day of Pentecost, but simply the enduement of power for their great work. And that another young minister said we did not know when and where the disciples were sanctified. The editor in his article says the brother wishes to know whether this is correct teaching according to the Word of God and the standard of the church. In answering the question, he says the two young brothers were correct, and that he would like to see the Scripture proof to the contrary. He states that the Scripture did not definitely state anywhere, when and where any one of the twelve was entirely sanctified. He further says, many teach that this occurred on the day of Pentecost, that what the disciples received on that day was the blessing of entire sanctification. But he says: The Pentecostal blessing and the blessing of entire sancti6cation are entirely different; and that the teaching which makes the Pentecostal enduement identical with entire sanctification is slipshod, careless, lacks in preciseness and discrimination, and leads to much confusion. It, lowers the standard of entire sanctification, slurs over the great central principle of holiness, and switches the whole doctrine of sanctification into a groove where it does not fit.

"Now, I would like to know, through your paper, whether that is correct teaching.

"1. Is it a fact that the disciples were not entireh sanctified on the day of Pentecost ?

"2. If we don't know when and where they were sanctified, how do we know they were sanctified ?

"3. Is it correct that the Pentecostal blessing was simply an enduement of power, and not entire sancti- fication ?

"4. Is it true that the two blessings are entirely dis- tinct and different!

"I enjoy Bible holiness in my heart, and preach it wherever I go, and I would like to have these things explained for my benefit and the benefit of thousands of the readers."

We commend the spirit of both the letter and the article which has called it forth. Both writers are manifestly seeking to know the truth. A preliminary word should be said respecting the manner of Christian experience. We learn from books and from the lectures of some theological professors that both regeneration and entire sanctification are states of grace sharply defined, entered upon instantaneously after certain very definite steps, and followed by certain very marked results. But the young preacher soon learns that there are eminently spiritual members of his church whose experiences have not been in accordance with this regulation manner. They have passed through no marked and memorable crises. Hence they have no spiritual anniversaries. The young pastor is puzzled by these anomalies. At last, if he is wise, he will conclude that the books describe normal experiences to which the Holy Spirit does not limit itself, and that an abnormal method of gaining a spiritual change or elevation is by no means to be discounted.

1. In this question the article has been misapprehended. The writer's real doubt is that "the disciples were all sanctified wholly, at one and the same time," while the conditions are "almost wholly subjective and personal." It should be borne in mind that the ten days of waiting, prayer, and religious conference graphically described in Arthur's "Tongue of Fire" strongly tended to assimilate their different characteristics and peculiarities. The fact that the hearts of some of them were cleansed by faith — enough to be said, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first." He will recognize many as having fulfilled his commandment, "Be ye perfect," who have not dared to use that great word, imagining that it excludes all errors, infirmities, and ignorances. Some such I have intimately known. When asked, "Are you enjoying perfected holiness?" they would say, "I am not sure." But when asked, "What would be your feeling if you should see the Son of God, the final Judge, descending on his great white throne?" they instantly reply, "I would fly to meet him half way, if possible." This absence of "all fear that has torment" is a proof positive of perfect love. It is the only adequate cause of such an effect. In estimating the number of the entirely sanctified in the Apostolic age, and in every other age since, we are not to be limited to those who have passed through an instantaneous experience, a memorable transition and uplift, though this is, as Wesley says, "infinitely desirable," while admitting that "this great work may be gradually wrought in some." Fletcher, the able expounder and eminent defender of this Wesleyan doctrine, says that "to deny that imperfect believers may and do gradually grow in grace, and of course that the remains of their sins may, and do, gradually decay, is as absurd as to deny that God waters the earth by the daily dews, as well as by thunder showers; it is as ridiculous as to assert that nobody is carried off by lingering disorders, but that all men die suddenly or a few hours after they are taken ill." Hence there was in John S. Inskip more than a spice of humor, there was a good sense and wise philosophy in his invitation to gradualists to come to the altar as seekers of perfected holiness, "Come, ye brethren and sisters who expect to attain this grace by degrees, come to the altar and get along a good bit to-day." Sometimes this "good bit" was the step that reached the prize.

Wesley studied a great variety of terms and phrases expressive of this experience, a good example for all its teachers. I have counted up twenty-six, but "the baptism of (or with) the Spirit," and "the fullness of the Spirit," are phrases not used by him, probably because there is an emotional fullness of a temporary nature, not going down to the very roots of the moral nature. Nor did he use "receiving the Holy Ghost," because "in a sense of entire sanctification" the phrase is not scriptural and not quite proper; for they all received the Holy Ghost when they were justified. Wesley did not, probably for the same reason, use "Pentecostal blessing" though Charles Wesley did in a letter to John, saying, "Your day of Pentecost is not fully come; but I doubt not it will; and you will then hear of persons sanctified as frequently as you do now of persons justified." Were John Wesley now living, I think he would express a deep sympathy with the closing sentences of the article under criticism and quoted at the end of the letter. I think that the best way to restore this doctrine to the evangelical pulpits is to begin by preaching on the offices of the Holy Spirit in convicting of sin and in the new birth and the witness of the Spirit direct and indirect, topics on which many Christian people are in lamentable ignorance. When any one has received the Regenerating Spirit, then is the time to instruct him respecting the Sanctifying Spirit and to urge that he be received by faith. We must be wise as serpents, studying the best way of presenting truths distasteful to prejudiced minds.

Steele's Answers pp. 126-131.