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.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Three Convictions of the Holy Spirit

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16:7-11 ASV

The discussion of the three convictions which the Paraclete effects in men, especially men who are enlightened by gospel truth, shows in what way He glorifies the Son of God. The first question is, Why does He not glorify the Father? He does. If the Father and Son are one in nature, as the Son asserts (John xiv. 9), it follows that honors ascribed to the Son glorify the Father. "He that acknowledgeth the Son Hath the Father also" (I John ii. 23). There can be no jealousy between them, because they are one in divinity, and in their distinct personalities they aim at one purpose in the scheme of redemption.

The personality of the Son is much more easily grasped by men's narrow minds, because it is divested of that vagueness and abstract infinitude which belong to our conception of God. Hence, the Son's personality having been exhibited in a concrete form, within the limits of humanity, has become far more affecting and influential, when contemplated with all its historic incidents, lowly birth, poverty, youthful toil, kindly deeds, beneficent miracles, wise sayings, transparent parables, rejection by the Jews, arrest by the midnight mob, unjust condemnation, tragic execution and glorious resurrection. It is this historic setting of the Son's personality which the Holy Spirit can use with the best effect in producing conviction of sin. The only element which we have failed to enumerate needful for this result is assent to distinctive Christian truth, especially to Christ's claim of supreme divinity. Truth separate from a sense of the authority of God does not convict of sin and spiritually vitalize man's moral nature. Says Dr. Walker, "Conscience will enforce no moral duty unless it sees God in it." It will respond to no other voice than that of the moral Ruler and final Judge of all free moral agents. So long as Jesus was regarded as a man only, His preaching had meagre results in the number of His disciples. But after His supreme divinity was demonstrated by His conquest of death, ascension to heaven and effusion of the Holy Spirit, men were converted by the thousands in a day. Like causes produce like effects in every age. Wherever in dependence on the Spirit of truth the whole gospel is preached, including Christ's triumph over the grave in proof of His Godhead, unbelievers are convinced of sin, righteousness and judgment. But wherever Jesus Christ is presented as a model of moral excellence, but a mere man like ourselves, there is no conscience awakened to see the enormity of sin and to turn from it with a perfect loathing. Revivals can no more come from such preaching than orange groves can spring up and bear fruit among the glaciers of Alaska. Genuine conversions must be preceded by a painful sense of the enormity of sin, which comes only from the belief that Christ is the divine Savior. This belief, though not saving, is the necessary stepping-stone to that all-surrendering reliance on Him as both Savior and Lord which is the condition of salvation. It is not enough to know Him historically as the Son of man. He must be known as the Son of God. This knowledge flesh and blood cannot impart. "No man can say Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. xii. 3, Revised Version). This gracious ability to arrive at a belief in the supreme divinity of Christ is imparted to all candid readers of the entire New Testament who have a disposition to follow whither the truth may lead. It is not enough to read the first three Gospels. The sincere inquirer must proceed to the fourth if he would be convinced that the Son of man is also the Son of God, equal to the Father in power and glory. Then he will hear Him say, "All things (attributes) that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he (the Comforter) taketh of mine and shall declare it unto you" (John xvi. 15). Thus the Comforter glorified Christ by attesting His perfect power to save from the guilt of sin through faith in His blood shed as a conditional substitute for the punishment of sin.

Then the Comforter, as "the Spirit of adoption," glorifies Christ as the Savior by crying in the believer's heart, "Abba, Father." This inspired feeling of sonship is the gift of Christ. "But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name." Thus the three divine Persons are glorified in the new birth of a soul.

"With joy the Father doth approve
The fruit of His eternal love;
The Son looks down with joy and sees
The purchase of His agonies;
The Spirit takes delight to view
The contrite soul He forms anew;
And saints and angels join to sing
The growing empire of their King."

Again, the Paraclete glorifies Christ by inwardly revealing Him as the chief among ten thousand and the one altogether lovely. In that wonderful address respecting the coming and offices of His successor, another Comforter, in John xiv.-xvi., aptly styled the Trinitarian Discourse, Jesus says respecting every disciple who evinces the genuineness of his love by his obedience, "I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him." That this is not a spiritual phenomenon attending regeneration is evident from the fact that those whom Christ thus addressed were already regenerated. This is implied in His prayer in John xvil., appropriately called His high-priestly prayer: "They are thine. . . . They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Then He prays for a further work to be wrought in them: "Sanctify them through thy truth. . . . I sanctify (consecrate to the one work of redemption) myself, that they themselves may he truly sanctified." With respect to these two future events, Christ's manifestation to the believer and His sanctification, the inference is natural that the former is intimately connected with the latter as a means to an end. The manifestation is by the Holy Spirit, the representative of Christ, who does not manifest Himself, but magnifies, glorifies, deifies the personality of the Son of God, for whom He is cleansing the heart as the temple of His everlasting abode.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 8.