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.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Abounding Love

"Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you: and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." (1Thessalonians 3:11-13 ASV)

Turning now to another prayer of St. Paul in 1 Thess. 3:12, 13, we find that there is to be an ever "increasing and abounding love one toward another, and toward all men," in order to establishment in holiness.

It is taught elsewhere in St. Paul's epistles that love is the element in which holiness exists (Eph. 1:4; 1 Tim. 1:5); but here we are assured that this love must have a man-ward, as well as a God-ward direction. Hence, a tart holiness, a bitter holiness, a sour holiness, an envious holiness, is a contradiction and an impossibility. Nor will the careful student of Paul's magnificent lyric on love, in 1 Cor. 13, find any such combination possible as perfect love and arrogance, or censoriousness, or self-conceit, or head-strongness. "Love," when purged of all dross, "suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, and doth not behave itself unseemly." Professors of heart purity especially those who associate themselves together almost exclusively, are in danger of taking on some of these unamiable qualities, and of cherishing uncharitable feelings toward those Christians whose weaker wings of faith have not borne them up to the Pisgah tops of grace. As a safeguard against this peril we recommend a frequent and searching self-examination, with this chapter as a touchstone. The result would be an increase in the number of "hearts unblamable in holiness before God," whose "eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them whose hearts are perfect towards him." — 2 Chron. 16:9.

The interpretation is erroneous, that the establishment in holiness, "at the coming of our Lord Jesus," signifies the completion of our sanctification at that time. Rather, it will be in that day that the result of the Spirit's perfect purifying work in this life will be exhibited to the universe. The same remark applies to that strong proof-text (1 Thess. 5:23, R. V.), "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The aorist tense of the verb "sanctify," denoting singleness of action, as distinguished from continuance or repetition, strengthens our position that there is no post mortem cleansing taught in these passages. This remark is for the special benefit of some good, and otherwise orthodox, theologians, who reject the modern philosophical inference that a change of relation to God's law from condemnation to justification, in certain cases, may take place after death, but look with favor on the doctrine of the completion after death of the sanctification which began in the new birth. The latter is as destitute of scriptural foundation as the former. The only purgatory for sin is in the blood of Christ. To assert that this purgatory stretches out from death to the Day of Judgment is to pass over the gulf between Protestantism based on the Bible, and Romanism built on traditions. Prayer for the unsanctified dead would logically follow. Let me rather pray —

"O thou great Power! in whom I move,
For whom I live, to whom I die,
Behold me through thy beams of love,
Whilst in this vale of tears I sigh;
And cleanse my sordid soul within
By thy Christ's blood, the Bath of sin!
No hallowed oils, no grains, I need;
No rags of saints, no purging fire;
One crimson drop of David's seed
Is all the cleansing I desire."

—edited from Half Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 15.