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 started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book 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. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Old Testament commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Is It the Same Spirit?

In Luke 1:15 the angel Gabriel predicts the following of John the Baptist - "...for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit." (NRSV)

QUESTION: Was the Spirit predicated of John from his birth (Luke 1:15) identical with the Pentecostal gift to the disciples?

ANSWER: The Third Person of the Trinity has always been in the world, but his activity before Pentecost differed from his operations after his public manifestation as the Pentecostal gift, as an outward temporary gift, like skill to Bezaleel, physical strength to Samson, the kingly feel to Saul, differs from the permanent inward grace adorning the soul with all the Christian virtues, love, joy, peace, etc. We are not to understand that John was an exception to the law of heredity by which all of the offspring of Adam except the second Adam were tainted with a tendency toward sin. See Rom. 5:12, "For all have sinned," i.e., became sinful. John the Baptist  was so under the influence of the Holy Spirit as to be kept from actual sin and through faith to be cleansed from depraved tendency even in childhood. Were parents as deeply spiritual in these times as John's were there would be frequent instances of sky-born children sanctified to God before the devil could touch them. Oh, for more houses filled with the heavenly atmosphere of perfect love in which childhood may be early purified and trained for Christ and his church! It is a great blessing to be well born.

— from Steele's Answers pp. 10, 11.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Are Infants Born Justified?

QUESTION: If infants are born in a state of justification, are they not also regenerated, since regeneration accompanies justification?

ANSWER: No. Justification is a legal term for forgiveness of sin and hence it cannot be properly applied to one who has never sinned and is incapable of sinning. Acceptance would be a better term. This does not imply the infant's regeneration. All infants belong to Christ, who redeemed them. It is not wise to apply to them the terms which belong only to believers, such as justification, regeneration and sanctification. Bishop Gilbert Haven, at my dinner table, asked the lady presiding whether he children were not born regenerate. Her reply was, "If they were, they all backslid before they were more than three weeks old."

— from Steele's Answers pp. 9, 10.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jesus & the Sabbath

QUESTION: Why did not Jesus change the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week?

ANSWER: The day before his death he said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the spirit of truth, shall come, he will guide you into all truth." We may infer what some of these unspoken precepts were from certain hints that Jesus let fall from his lips, and from certain things highly prized by the Jews which he much disliked. He disliked the unreasonable and unmerciful rigor of the Jewish Sabbath and strongly leaned toward alleviation. If it was his purpose to let the sunshine into its gloom by changing the day from the seventh to the first, so as to disassociate it from its Jewish severity, he would have lost the few disciples who still clung to him after "many of his disciples went away backward and walked no more with him," leaving him uttering this pathetic question, "Ye will not go away, too, will you?" The best he could prudently do to effect this desired change was to refer it to the dispensation of the Paraclete with this suggestive declaration: "The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." Hence we are not surprised to learn that the Pentecostal Church began the practice of keeping the resurrection day — called by John the Lord's day — which became so general after three centuries as to require the enactment of the civil Sabbath by Constantine on the first day. The Holy Spirit could in three centuries gradually do without damage to the faith of Jewish converts what Jesus could not do in three years without forfeiting the confidence of his little handful of followers and, dying, leave not one disciple on the earth.

— From Steele's Answers pp 8,9.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Previous Sins & Christian Ministry

QUESTION: Is it right to refuse to license a man to preach the Gospel because of sins committed before his conversion — since which God has forgiven?

ANSWER: There are sins which cast a long shadow after they have been forgiven, by reason of which I should not vote for a man's admission to the sacred office of the Christian ministry. If Aaron Burr, the grandson of President Jonathan Edwards, had been soundly converted after killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and had applied for a license to preach, the church which refused his application would have acted wisely. If St. Augustine, who was converted after he had become the father of a illegitimate son, had not been permitted to enter the priesthood because of this sin of his youth, no wrong would have been done to him. It would have been an unfortunate disability. If after a matrimonial shipwreck by a divorce and a second marriage a man should be converted and ask to be ordained to the Christian ministry while the first wife is still living, the church would be justified in saying to him, we have confidence in your Christian character, but we prefer that you should be a layman and not a preacher. Among Gentile converts were some polygamists, who it seems were baptized and received into the church, but when they wished to become ordained ministers, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, laid down the law for all future generations: "Let the deacons be husbands of one wife," i.e., only one at a time.

— From Steele's Answers pp. 7,8.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Woman's Sphere in the Church

This is not limited to the duties of the family or household, since she is often by nature and grace pre-eminently adapted for a wider service. Hence women were employed as prophets, that is, in the sense of public religious teachers, including the higher ministerial duties, as appears from the rank next after apostles . I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11. Compare Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; Rom. 16:1-2. So in the Old Testament. Exod. 15:20; Judg. 4:4; II Kings 22:14; Num. 11:29.          

Compare also Ps. 68:11, where the true rendering is, of the women preachers there was a great host; which accords with the wish of Moses, Num. 11:29, and of Paul, I Cor. 14:5.

Some have understood Paul as prohibiting women teaching. I Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2: 11-12. But he evidently refers to such only as prayed and prophesied unveiled, as appears 1 Cor. 11:5-13. Paul in this had respect simply to the usage of society, as was his custom in matters of indifference. I Cor. 9:19-23. To say that his prohibition applies alike to all times and conditions of society, is to say that the prudential regulations of a degraded heathen people, eighteen hundred years ago, are universally binding, and that Christianity in this respect has wrought no change in the world it came to reform. Paul surely had a different estimate of woman service. Rom. 16:1-7, 12-15. His first public discourse in Europe was at a meeting of women, and his first convert and host was a woman. Acts 16:9-15. 

There is indisputable scriptural and historical proof that subordinate official position was accorded to women in the apostolic Church:-            

1. The correct translation of Rom. 16:1-2, shows that Phebe was a deacon of the Church and a patron of many-the original of patron being radically the same as is rendered, he that ruleth, in chap. 12:8. (182. What is said of his estimate of women? Was official position accorded to her? What is said of Phebe? What exposition of Rom. 16:1-2?) of Deacons not only minister to the sick and needy, but from Phil. 1:1, and I Tim. 3:2, 8, we infer that they preached and discharged other spiritual functions subordinate to the elders or bishops, who correspond to the pastors of modern times.           

2. The rules of conduct laid down for women in I Tim. 3:11, and Titus 2:3, have been referred to the deaconesses by a series of eminent commentators from Chrysostom to Alford.           

3. Dr. Schaff and other scholars interpret the words, "let not a widow be taken into the number," I Tim.5:9. Let not a widow be elected and ordained under threescore years old.           

4. From Titus 2:3-4, we learn that women were employed as teachers in the direct personal application of Christian truth.           

5. Pliny, a few years later, speaks of the order of deaconesses as exercising, in relation to their own sex, functions analogous to those of the deacons.           

The history of the early Christian Church confirms this statement, and adds, also, that women baptized. Signal honors are recorded of woman's devotion to Christ and his cause. Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 10:38-42. She was first to preach the actual advent of the promised Messiah, both to the Jews and to the Samaritans. Luke 2:36-38; John 4:28, etc.; and first to preach the risen Savior to his doubting apostles. Matt. 28:7-9, 17.

"Not she, with traitorous kiss, her Savior stung; — Luke 22:47-48.
Not she denied him with unholy tongue; — Matt. 26:69-75.
She, while apostles shrank, could danger brave: —Matt. 26:56
Last at the cross, and earliest at his grave." — Matt. 27:55-56 28:1.

— From: Amos Binney & Daniel Steele, Binney's Theological Compend Improved (1875).

ADDENDUM: And, for those who would like to see a list of women who were leaders in the Wesleyan movements prior to 1900, see this: Kevin Jackson: Women Leaders in the Wesleyan Movements.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Typology and Experience

QUESTION: A lady, relating her experience in a recent issue of "Living Water," says, "Cleansing and the incoming of the Holy Ghost, whereby we experimentally enter Canaan, is not all that we need to insure a victorious march through the land swarming with giants and fenced cities. And some of us have found it out to our cost." Please analyze and classify this experience.

ANSWER: The writer has been led away from the truth of her typology. Thus after crossing the Jordan, typifying, as she thinks, entire sanctification and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, she still finds depravity within her, represented by the imagery of giants and fenced cities. She seems to be mixed in her sacred geography. She has mistaken the passage of the Red Sea and wilderness life for Canaan after Joshua's conquest, regeneration for for perfect cleansing, a mistake not uncommon. Do not state or defend a doctrine by the use of figurative language. This is excellent for theoretical illustration, but fallacious when used for a rational proof. If this good woman found a strong propensity towards sin in her after her supposed entire sanctification, she did not call her blessing by the right name. It was not a complete cleansing.

— From Steele's Answers pp 6, 7. [Emphasis added.]

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Take the Higher Path!

An Address to the Young Convert.

My Brother or Sister in Christ Jesus: permit an older soldier to offer a few words of advice to a new recruit in the army of the Lord. An ancient writer has wisely said, that there have been from the beginning two orders of Christians. The one live a harmless life, doing many good works, abstaining from gross evils, and attending the ordinances of God, but waging no downright earnest warfare against the world, nor making strenuous efforts for the promotion of Christ's kingdom, nor aiming at special spiritual excellence, but at the average attainments of their neighbors. The other class of Christians not only abstain from every form of vice, but they are zealous of every kind of good works. They attend all the ordinances of God. They use all diligence to attain the whole mind that was in Christ, and to walk in the very footsteps of their beloved Master. They unhesitatingly trample on every pleasure which disqualifies for the highest usefulness. They deny themselves, not only of indulgences expressly forbidden, but of those which by experience they have found to diminish their enjoyment of God. They take up their cross daily. At the morning's dawn they cry, "Glorify thyself in me this day, O blessed Jesus!" It is more than their meat and drink to do their heavenly Father's will. They are not Quietists, ever lingering in secret places delighting in the ecstasies of enraptured devotion; they go forth from the closet, as Moses came from the mount of God, with faces radiant with the divine glory; and, visiting the groveling and sensual, they prove by lip and life the divineness of the Gospel. Men tremble before them as Satan in Paradise Lost, when he first saw the sinless pair in Eden, "trembled to behold how awful goodness is."

Next to the power of Jesus, the living Head, these earnest believers preserve and perpetuate the Church from age to age. The secret of their strength is, that they, by the guidance of the Spirit, found the King's highway up the summit of Christian holiness. They strove, they agonized to plant their feet on that sunlit height. They have left the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and have gone on to perfection.

They have accompanied St. Paul in his wonderful prayer in the third chapter of Ephesians, "till they know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," and are "filled with all the fullness of God." Says Mr. Wesley, whose greatness the Christian world is just beginning to appreciate,

From long experience and observation I am inclined to think that whoever finds redemption in the blood of Jesus — whoever is justified — has the choice of walking in the higher or the lower path. I believe the Holy Spirit at that time sets before him the 'more excellent way,' and incites him to walk therein — to choose the narrowest path in the narrow way — to aspire after the heights and depths of holiness — after the entire image of God. But if he do not accept this offer he insensibly declines into the lower order of Christians; he still goes on in what may be called a good way, serving God in his degree, and finds mercy in the close of life through the blood of the covenant.

This is on the condition that he is a persevering believer. But this lower path lies so near to the broad way, that many are almost insensibly lured into it, and go down to destruction with the thoughtless throng who enter in at the wide gate. Would you, young Christian friend, place the best possible safeguard against such a spiritual catastrophe? Take the higher path; consecrate all to Christ; seek full salvation through his blood, which cleanseth from all sin. This is the divinely-invented safeguard of the Christian life.

"Jesus, thine all-victorious love
Shed in my heart abroad;
Then shall my feet no longer rove,
Rooted and fixed in God."

These two paths lie before your feet, young convert. Choose you that one in which you will walk — the higher or the lower, the safer or the more perilous. Let one who has tried both give you the benefit of his experience: —

The lower path seems easier, but in reality it is far more difficult. The sultry heat produces languor, and the noxious vapors induce stupor, making it exceedingly difficult to keep walking, even though the road is comparatively level. The beautiful bowers of ease tempt the drowsy traveler to lie down and sleep. To sleep is to lose heaven, as, alas! multitudes of the lower-path travelers have done.

Let their whitened bones, scattered along this path, be a warning to you to seek the upward path. It appears to be steep and rough; but the few who have tried agree in testifying that the atmosphere is so bracing and exhilarating that they seem to be lifted up the mountain by an invisible hand. Such a flood of life courses through their veins, such electric vigor shoots through their limbs, that they are not inclined to turn aside to the pleasure-arbors which Satan has unwisely located here and there near this way. The way itself is the highest pleasure on earth. The pilgrims run and are not weary. The Hebrew psalmist explains this paradox: "I will run the way of thy commandments when thou hast enlarged my heart." Along the higher path the joy of the Holy Ghost pours, a river deep and wide; while along the lower it is a brooklet, more than half the year dried up by the torrid sun. Through the clear Italian atmosphere of the higher path, the celestial city is ever in view to the eye of faith; but clouds frequently settle down upon the pilgrims in the lower path, bringing perplexing doubts respecting the issue of their journey. The upward way leads to "an abundant entrance," while the pilgrims in the other road are haunted by distressing fears lest they shall come short of being even "scarcely saved."

Christian reader, a fellow-pilgrim to the New Jerusalem has had this experience in these paths. His testimony could be affirmed by many thousands, the brightest names that shine on the pages of Church history. Have such names as St. Paul, Madame Guyon, Fletcher, Bramwell, James Brainerd Taylor, no weight with you in deciding the question of which path?

Having chosen the higher path, do not be discouraged by the obstacles in the way of your entering and walking therein. You are not to remove them by your own strength. You have an almighty and complete Saviour, "able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him." With a submissive will and believing soul, "pray that you may know the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe." Pray, and faint not. Take into your closet Charles Wesley's great dramatic lyric of a struggling and victorious soul, "Wrestling Jacob," and pray its words till the intensity of the expressions kindle your soul with earnestness and unconquerable persistence. Let your faith grasp some one of Christ's many precious promises, and use it as a key. Then will the iron gate across the king's highway swing back upon its hinges, and the path never trod by the lion's whelps shall lie before you.

Dropping all figurative language, let me say to you plainly, that you may enter upon the higher Christian life by simple faith in Jesus Christ as your complete Saviour. As you have received Jesus, so walk in him. You received him at the first by faith; you are to receive by faith "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Repentance was the indispensable condition of justifying faith; you could not believe without giving up your sins. Consecration is the necessary qualification for sanctifying faith; you cannot believe till you give up self.

But you may say, "I did this when I was converted."' You then, like a conquered rebel, threw down your weapons and surrendered yourself as a prisoner of war. Now that you have been pardoned and made a citizen, Christ gives you the privilege of showing your loyalty to his government by pouring all your substance into his treasury as a freewill offering, and of volunteering soul and body in his conquering army. The difference between the two acts of consecration is the difference between surrendering with reluctance and volunteering with gladness. The subsequent service is marked by more or less servility in the one case and joyous freedom in the other. The one is a servant, the other is a son. It is true that all who are born into the divine family are sons by adoption; but many forget their sonship, and begin to work for wages. They become legal in spirit, trusting to the merit of their works, and thus put a yoke upon their necks. But the full measure of Christ's love, shed abroad by the Holy Spirit, makes free indeed. Service is no longer a drudgery, but a delight. The motive to obedience is no longer fear, but love — not the dread of the law, but affection toward the Lawgiver.

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.

These are the two ways of Christian living — the lower and the higher path. Every consideration of greater usefulness, greater happiness, greater security, and, above all, greater glory to the blessed Lord Jesus, should constrain you to seek the higher path.

"If our love were but more simple,
We would take him at his word;
And our lives would be all sunshine,
In the sweetness of the Lord."

  — From Love Enthroned.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Apostolic Succession

QUESTION: Does the election of Matthias to be an apostle prove the so-called apostolic succession claimed by prelatical churches?

ANSWER: It does not. It rather was a human attempt at substitution, for the apostles were still in condition of pupils. They had not yet begun their work. The apostles had no successors. When James, the brother of John, was killed quite early in the history of the church, when he was most needed, no one was chosen as his successor. To choose apostles is the exclusive prerogative of the head of the church, whether he is on earth or in heaven. In the account of Acts 1:15-26 there is no intimation that the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to do the work which properly belonged to his Lord and Master. He certainly was not inspired to change his boarding house as he did in Gal. 2:11-14, nor to "go a fishing" when they did not catch so much as a smelt till Christ appeared on the scene after their all night's toil. It does not look like heavenly wisdom to inspire men to limit God's choice to one of two. It looks very human for two parties to nominate two candidates, and failing to secure an election, to resort to the lot to decide. This putting forward two candidates is the only instance of a competitive ecclesiastical election or nomination in the New Testament. We could wish it had been the last in church history. Matthias was probably an excellent man, but he is not mentioned again n the New Testament. This may be because he was a man-made apostle. Paul was not such; he was the real twelfth apostle, see Gal. 1:1. He is thus counted in the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem and twelve apostles of the lamb spoken of in Revelation. The claim that the presbyters, elders, sometimes called episcopoi or bishops, are the successors to the twelve apostles is true chronologically, but not officially. All preachers of the Gospel are successors to the apostles in time.

— From: Steele's Answers.