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 Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Called to be Saints

J. A. Beet writes: "The word saint is a very appropriate designation of the followers of Christ; for it declares what God requires them to be."

One has humorously said that Paul called Christians saints on the same principle that some small and struggling American schools are called universities, because the founders had large hopes. As objects of hope they are universities, but not in reality. The term "holy" points to our privilege and obligation to live lives free from sin and wholly devoted to Christ, who died that we might not live unto self. In every pulpit and prayer meeting the fact should be constantly rung out that all who have taken upon themselves the name of Christ are called to be saints, holy ones.

In this view of the subject there is, after entire sanctification, a growth in the positive element of holiness. This is taught by Wesley in the continual increase of love in a pure heart, as the spiritual life day by day develops in its utmost fullness, enjoying that real freedom in which obedience to God is not hindered by any inward opposition. Hence we insist that the believer's complete development is realized only by a supreme act of self-crucifixion, followed by a life of total self-abnegation; in the words of Wesley, "naked, following a naked Christ," whose holiness as the "Son of man" was evinced in his coming into the world, "not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

This doctrine has always been disliked by self-centered men, whether nominal Christians or not, men filled with self-will, self-seeking, self-sufficiency, and self-righteousness. When the Church tones down or neglects to preach this essential and vital doctrine to please such men and gain their support, she betrays her Lord for money and commits suicide besides.

— From A Defense of Christian Perfection, Chapter 5.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Am a Freed Man

[The conclusion of a sermon preached before the Boston University School of Theology on May 30. 1871.]

 Brethren, on the subject of the fullness of the Holy Spirit as a possible and sudden attainment in modern times, I am not here to theorize, to philosophize, to dogmatize, but to testify. Let me turn my pulpit into a witness-stand for one moment. Although this school may teach that testimony in the pulpit should be of an indefinite and impersonal sort, I must speak for myself. Six months ago I made the discovery that I was living in the pre-pentecosal state of religious experience — admiring Christ's character, obeying his law, and in a degree loving his person, but without the conscious blessing of the Comforter. I settled the question of privilege by a study of St. John's Gospel and St. Paul's Epistles, and earnestly sought for the Comforter. I prayed, consecrated, confessed my state, and believed Christ's word. Very suddenly, after about three weeks' diligent search, the Comforter came with power and great joy to my heart. He took my feet out of the realm of doubt and weakness, and planted them forever on the Rock of assurance and strength. My joy is a river of limpid waters, brimming and daily overflowing the banks, unspeakable and full of glory. God is my everlasting light, and the days of my mourning are ended. I am a freed man. Christ is my Emancipator, bringing me into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. My eyes are anointed so that I can see wonders in God's law. My efficiency in Christ's service is greatly multiplied. In the language of Dr. Payson, I daily exclaim, "Oh, that I had known this twenty years ago!" But I thank God that after a struggle of more than a score of years —

"I have entered the valley of blessing so sweet,
And Jesus abides with me there;
And His Spirit and blood make my cleansing complete,
And His perfect love casteth out fear.
O come to this valley of blessing so sweet,
Where Jesus doth fullness bestow;
And believe, and receive, and confess Him,
That all His salvation may know."

Monday, November 26, 2012

A License to Preach?

QUESTION: A Christian woman, deserted by an unbelieving husband, is divorced and marries a Christian man, and feeling uncertain whether she has done right, by mutual agreement, they separate. (1) Would it be right for her, feeling a clear call to preach, to be licensed? (2) Would Galatians 5:18 justify her, "If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law?"

ANSWER: No. There are improprieties not allowable in a preacher of the Gospel of the Holy Christ, such as having two living husbands and not living with either.

Re: (2). All Christians are under God's moral law as the rule of life. But they are not under the law as the ground of justification. We are not shut up to plead that we have always kept the law, in order to find acceptance with God. Christ is our new plea. We are not antinomians. We are under obligation to keep the law after we are forgiven through faith in Christ, but we are prompted now by a new motive, love to the Law-giver instead of fear of the penalty of the law.

— From Steele's Answers p. 28.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Does It Mean to "Die Unto the Law"?

QUESTION: In what sense did Paul die unto the law, so that he could aver that he was not under the law? 

ANSWER: In the interest of clear thought, practical ethics, and sound theology we answer, that every evangelical believer died to the law:

(1) as the ground of his acceptance with God. He ceased to rely on his conformity to the law through all his past history, confessed himself guilty, and entered a new plea in the court of divine justice, "Jesus Christ the Son of God died for me — I receive him as both my Savior and Lord, and through his mediation I beg for pardon." Paul was not under the law, and was dead to the law as the ground of justification for past sins.

(2) Paul was dead to the law as a motive impelling to service. Love to the Lawgiver shed abroad in his heart had taken the place of fear of the penalty of the law. In this change there is nothing strange or revolutionary, since the interior essence of the divine law is love.

(3) Paul died to the law as the instrument of sanctification. He had discovered that it could not cleanse the impurity which it revealed within. He had found in the gospel a personal purifier, procured through the atonement, the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven in pentecostal power. He can do what neither "the blood of goats and calves," nor the most scrupulous conformity to the moral law, can do for a sin-stained soul.

(4) But Paul was not antinomian; he did not "make void the moral law through faith, but rather he established the law, for he was not dead to the law as THE RULE OF LIFE.

The iron rails can communicate no power to impel the train; but they are indispensable to direct whatever force may be applied, whether gravity, steam, or electricity. The absence of the rails at any given point of the track is ruin. Thus it is with the law of God. It has no power to impel or to attract the soul God-ward; but its perpetual office is to guide the chariot wheels of the divine love, impelling souls upward along the heavenly way. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

On Being a Mystic

A Christian friend writes to me asking me whether I am not a Mystic. I reply, Yes. All men are religious Mystics who know God through spiritual intuition, a gift of the Holy Ghost far transcending the Reason and the Understanding. I have a warm side for the Christian Mystics, so utterly misunderstood by that blind generation in which they lived. They dwelt on the mountain-tops in a dark age, and never lost sight of the vision of a glorified Christ. Such a Mystic I would be as Rudolf E. Etier professed to be, when a company at an inn hinted that this reproachful epithet belonged to him, by asking his definition of the term. He replied: "The Mystics were preachers who lived as they preached." Perfect love has worn many an opprobrious name without receiving any detriment. This Rose of Sharon blooming in my heart is just as sweet under any other name. My feeling towards the Mystics is much like that of Wesley towards the Montanists. He is their only modern defender, because his mind was sufficiently large and catholic to look beneath certain exaggerated excesses and to discover that these vilified people were really filled with the Holy Ghost, and that amid a formal and worldly church they preserved a spiritual type of Christianity.

It seems to me that I never knew what it is to grow in grace till I plunged into the shoreless and fathomless sea of Love divine in 1870. Since that date each new height gained has shown above me Alps on Alps arising, betokening an endless career of progress in the ceaseless cycles of eternity.

"The fullness of His blessing encourageth my way;
The fullness of His promises crowns every brightening day;
The fullness of His glory is beaming from above,
While more and more I realize the fullness of His love." 

— From Mile-Stone Papers (1878) Part 2, Chapter 8.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Death of Personal Ambition.

To all desire of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement, to the glory of God's grace let it be said, I feel as dead as the autumn leaves beneath my feet as I tread the streets of Lynn on this gusty November day. It was different once. There was once a desire for the applause of men, a name resounding in the trumpet of fame. It was not inordinate and noticeable by my friends; but it existed as an uneasy tenant of my bosom, the spring of many of my actions, and a motive mingling with all my aspirations to serve God. But five years ago, this blessed day, an unalloyed spring of action, the motive power of unmingled love to Jesus and the race for which He shed His blood was fixed within by the Holy Spirit. It is no longer the old nature that lives, but Christ Jesus.

That a resurrection of the self that has been crucified, dead, and buried for years is possible, I do not deny. I am not divining the future, but chronicling my footsteps in the past for the benefit of my fellow-believers: —

"Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.''

— From Mile-Stone Papers (1878) Part 2 Chapter 3.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Spirit of Adoption

There is always a spiritual decline whenever Christ and the Holy Spirit have a secondary place in preaching; and there is always a revival when the "whole counsel of God," the Father, Son, and Spirit, is faithfully presented in the pulpit.

Of many individual believers it may be truthfully said that their spiritual life is feeble and sickly because they fail to grasp Christ and the Comforter in all their distinct offices. Thousands are faintly moving, with languid steps, along the heavenward path, who might run with gladness, surmounting every obstacle and overthrowing every foe by their resistless momentum, if they would only persistently endeavor to "know the exceeding greatness of Christ's power to us-ward who believe."

Thousands of sincere souls are harassed and weakened by perpetual doubts, simply because they do not render due honor to the third person of the Trinity by trusting him to the work of his office, certifying their son-ship by "the spirit of adoption." They do not stir themselves up to take hold of this blessed assurance, and to insist that the Divine seal be impressed upon them by the Holy Ghost. They live in constant disregard of the second pungent inference from Wesley's sermon on the Witness of the Spirit, "Let none rest in any supposed fruit of the Spirit without the witness." The natural consequence of this absence of "the spirit of adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father," is a perpetual oscillation between hope and fear, sorrowfully singing: —

"'Tis a point I long to know;

Oft it causeth anxious thought,

Do I love the Lord, or no;

Am I his, or am I not?"

Instead of this they might be exultingly singing: —

"O love, thou bottomless abyss!

My sins are swallowed up in thee;

Covered is my unrighteousness,

Nor spot of guilt remains on me:

While Jesus' blood, through earth and skies,

Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries."

I am convinced that this unsatisfactory and un-methodistic experience too prevalent in our Churches, is chargeable in part to the failure of our preachers to specialize this blessing, the common privilege of all believers. Hear Mr. Wesley: "Generally, wherever the Gospel is preached in a clear and scriptural manner, more than ninety-nine in a hundred do know the exact time when they are justified."

This is the testimony of a man more competent, from personal observation, to express a reliable opinion than any since the apostolic age, for he visited all his Societies annually, and met them in class, and put to each member searching test questions which went into the very core of his being. That was the style of class-leading in his day. But no such proportion of conversions, with the direct witness, now obtains at our altars. The failure is not in the Gospel, which is a changeless stream of power emanating from the living Christ, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." Where, then, is the failure? Let every preacher examine his sermons, and see whether he has made "the spirit of adoption" conspicuous in his ministry. 

— From Love Enthroned (1875) Chapter 10.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Can a Sinner Be Restored?

QUESTION: I am in great distress, having been pardoned and baptized with the Holy Spirit, a happy, aggressive Christian worker, then knowingly and deliberately committing sin and repeating it for months and years. Is it possible for me again to find acceptance with adoption into the family of God? do you think there is any hope for so great a sinner?

ANSWER: Your case is a very sad one, but I see one ray of hope. Your desire to be restored to the state from which you have fallen is an indication that the Holy Spirit has not left you. He who commits the irremissible sin has, we are told no longing for restoration. Hebrews 6:4-8 may be quoted against our position, but this text does not apply to you because you are "not crucifying (present tense) the Son of God afresh," but rather, earnestly seeking him as your Saviour. Hebrews 10:26-31 has also a present tense denoting a persistent sinning: "For if we are willingly sinning," etc.: It should also be borne in mind that the apostasy of a Christian Hebrew is the rejection of the Christian system and a return to Judaism, in which such an apostate will find no effectual sacrifice for sin. But should he return to Christ he will not cast him out.

"There's a wideness in his mercy
Like the wideness of the sea."

The adversary, the devil, often tempts backsliders to believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. In my pastoral experience by quoting the divine promises to a dying sailor who said, "There is no mercy for me, I have broken all of God's laws," his despair was changed into faith in Christ. He found pardon and died in peace. My advice to this sorrowing inquirer is to go to Jesus saying, "If I perish I will pray and perish only there."

Steele's Answers pp. 26-28.

Friday, November 16, 2012

In What Sense All True Believers are Saints

QUESTION: Wesley ends sermon 29 thus: "Now unto God the Father, who hath made me and all the world; unto God the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind; unto God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me and all the elect people of God; be honour and praise, majesty, and dominion, for ever and ever! Amen." Does not Wesley here profess sanctification?

ANSWER: Yes, but not entire sanctification. He insisted that the new birth is the beginning of holiness and that all true believers are saints or holy ones. He here classifies himself with "all the elect of God," a phrase including all the regenerate who "being children are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ."

Wesley strongly opposed the error of Count Zinzendorf, that all believers are wholly sanctified when they are regenerated. Wesley is in accord with 1 Peter 1:1-6 where those whom "God begat again" are the elect according to the foreknowledge of God (that they would comply with the conditions of salvation) in sanctification of the Spirit.

Steele's Answers p. 26.

Bishop Mallalieu Recommends "Wesley on Perfection"

Bishop Willard F. Mallalieu (1828-1911) gives a ringing endorsement to Wesley on Perfection compiled by J. A. Wood.

"It is with the greatest satisfaction that I give my approval to the present compilation of all that Wesley has taught concerning the all-important subject of Christian perfection. Surely there never, as now, was a time when the followers of Christ, of every name, and when, especially, all Methodists, should give their attention to the study of the scope and glorious nature of their privileges in this present dispensation of the Holy Ghost. We seem to stand on advanced ground, and such doors of opportunity are opened to the people of God, as never before in all the centuries of the past. All appliances, all facilities, are ours, and may be sanctified and utilized for the salvation of the world. But the great imperative, now is, that the professing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ should rise up out of the ordinary and usual experience of vacillation, of backsliding, yes, of justification and regeneration, and leaving all that is past, as Paul exhorts should be done, commence "to go on unto perfection," commence "to expect to be made perfect in love in this life," commence "to earnestly strive after it," and if need be, strive with groanings, and tears, and self-abasement, and agonizing supplications, until the experience of perfect love is realized, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost fills every heart with zeal, and crowns every head with lambent flames and makes every tongue eloquent in testifying to the grace of God that saves to the uttermost. Surely it will help to the realization of these most desirable results, if once more we turn to the study of Wesley and the Word of God."

This book — properly titled Christian Perfection as Taught by John Wesley — may be viewed in its entirety here: Wesley on Perfection. The book is a compendium of Wesley's teaching on the subject, and includes the entire text of A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

J. A. Wood Discusses "Wesley on Perfection"

This is a special necro-interview with John Allen Wood (1828-1905) discussing his book WESLEY ON PERFECTION.

Rev. Wood, you are well known in holiness circles as the author of Purity and Maturity and Perfect Love, but also for your leadership in the National Holiness Association. What are your intentions for your book Wesley on Perfection?

The correct title of the volume in question is Christian Perfection as Taught by John Wesley. 

Oh. Yes. I see. It is. But, as I say, what are you trying to accomplish with this book?

In this book Mr. Wesley is made to speak for himself on the subject of Christian Perfection; as, in its preparation, all that he left on the subject, in his various works and elsewhere, has been carefully examined, and everything of any special interest, or at all pertinent to the doctrine and experience, has been collected and classified in thirty sections; and each quotation verified for examination, if desired. In this classified, convenient form, may be found substantially all of his teachings, respecting this the central doctrine of Christianity. 

Why do you think this should be of especial interest to all Christians?

 During more than a century, John Wesley has been growing in the esteem of mankind, until now, among all Christians — Episcopalians, Dissenters, and Protestants of all names, — he is regarded as one of the most remarkable religious reformers in modern times.

Do you think this book will help people to better understand what Wesley actually taught?

Those who desire to know his views on any aspect of the subject of Christian Perfection can turn to this volume, and at once find all that is now available from him regarding it.

So, would you recommend it to anyone who is interested? 

Within these pages are garnered many precious truths for the edification of those interested in Scriptural holiness as taught by John Wesley. 

Thank you, Rev. Wood, for coming back from the dead (so to speak) to talk with us today. 

Wood's book — properly titled Christian Perfection as Taught by John Wesley — may be viewed in its entirety here: Wesley on Perfection. The book is a compendium of Wesley's teaching on the subject, and includes the entire text of A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.

— Craig L. Adams

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Unpardonable Sin

QUESTION: Explain the unpardonable sin as taught in Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-30 ("guilty of an eternal sin," R.V.), Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:28-29, and 1 John 5:16-17 ("sin unto death" we need not pray for).

ANSWER: This is too large a question for our single column. It is not a single, isolated, wicked act, but the culmination of a series of deliberate acts of known sin, the outcome of a willful rejection of light and a defiant resistance of the Holy Spirit's pleadings and warnings, till the capacity for repentance and saving faith has been destroyed. God does not close the door of salvation, but the impenitent man himself locks the door and throws away the key in his hatred of "recognized eternal holiness," saying, "evil be thou my good." A doctor finds a cure for the plague, a second physician prepares it, and a third applies it. While it would not necessarily be fatal to neglect or even offend the first two, it would be certain destruction to be plague-smitten to neglect the third persistently by refusing to take the medicine. This illustrates why sinning against the Holy Spirit is more dreadful than sinning against the Father or the Son.

Steele's Answers pp. 25, 26.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Growth of the Child Jesus

QUESTION: Explain Luke 2:40: " And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him."

ANSWER: Jesus had a normal bodily and mental  growth. He learned from his mother and Joseph to speak Aramaic, his mother tongue. The rabbi taught him to read Hebrew, then a dead language. His knowledge of the Holy Scriptures came from hearing them read every sabbath in the synagogue. Dr. Stalker suggests that through the kindness of the sacristan, or sexton, this model boy whom everybody admired had access on week days to the sacred scrolls kept in the synagogue and that he diligently studied them. But at twelve his knowledge that God, not Joseph, was his Father, was a supernatural, spiritual intuition. Such intuitions continued to unfold as long as he lived on the earth.

Steele's Answers pp. 24, 25.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rules for Preaching

In these days when we have voluminous and almost encyclopedic treatises on Homiletics, our younger preachers may overlook the brief disciplinary statement of the best method of preaching:

‘1. To convince; 

2. To offer to Christ; 

3. To invite; 

4. To build up. 

And to do this in some measure in every sermon.’ 

Those who keep these rules in mind will find them helpful in resisting the temptation to subordinate the pulpit to such selfish ends as the display of literary culture, classical erudition, or oratorical abilities. In the last analysis self and Christ are the only themes of preaching.

— Daniel Steele, A Defense of Christian Perfection (1896), Chapter 33.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Utterance Uninspired

QUESTION: Explain Ecclesiastes 3:19-21: "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; and man hath no pre-eminence above the beasts; for all is vanity. All go into one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man, whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast, whether it goeth downward to the earth?"

ANSWER: The whole Bible is inspired in its record, and some parts are inspired in their utterances; for instance, all that Job said, while nearly half the book of Job is the record of his so-called comforters who "did not speak the thing that is right," and, of course, were not inspired in their utterance. But for the benefit of the world God wished the whole discussion be put on record. The entire book of Ecclesiastes contains very little Gospel, but much pessimism, yet it is valuable as showing what human reason can do without divine revelation. It puts man on a level with the beasts. Says Prof. Moulton, in his wonderfully illuminating book, "The Modern Reader's Bible," respecting the authorship of Ecclesiastes, "its local and historic color, position in literary development, minutæ of language, fix the date of a book as clearly as handwriting betrays the age of a manuscript, all point to a period of writing centuries later than Solomon." He and many others think that some centuries afterwards some writer personating Solomon (as Plato speaks in the name of Socrates), "as the one personage who united the supreme forms of wealth, of wisdom and of power," affording the most striking contrast with the despair of a broken-hearted debauchee whom he is portraying after the style of a dramatist. Says Moulton, "Every second sentence is a literary puzzle." This is a poor place to find convincing proof texts in support of any theological dogma. Believing as I do that the Bible contains the infallible directory to eternal life, I must pronounce every declaration denying immortality an utterance uninspired.

Steele's Answers pp. 23, 24.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Gospel as Preached by John Wesley

Guest blog from Methodist Bishop W. F. Mallalieu (1828-1911)
The Gospel as preached by Wesley and those who imitate him, appeals with peculiar force to the intelligent common-sense of all unconverted men. All such men feel that under the circumstances and conditions of human life, it was incumbent upon God to make salvation possible to every soul. It has been the mission of Methodism to destroy the unreasonable and illogical and unscriptural dogmas of Calvinistic fatalism, and show how God could be just and yet the justifier of every believing soul that in real penitence accepts the Lord Jesus Christ; and, also, how God can save all infants and irresponsible persons, and how in every nation all who fear God and work righteousness, though they have never heard the Gospel, are accepted by Him. These fundamental truths as set forth by John Wesley, have never failed to commend themselves to the favorable consideration of all unprejudiced minds, for they at once glorify the Divine justice and compassion, and throw wide open the door of hope to every soul. But Wesley was thorough and exhaustive in his treatment of whatever was the subject of his investigations. For many long and weary years he groped in the thick darkness of the times in which he lived, seeking for the simplest experience of salvation. He abounded in all manner of self-denials and self-sacrifices; his morality was [of] the most exalted character; he was diligent in prayer and in the study of God's word; he was most strict in all the outward forms and services of religion; but until he reached his thirty-fifth year he had not attained the consciousness of pardon in his own soul; he could not testify that God for Christ's sake had forgiven him his sins. From that auspicious and ever-memorable, as well as glorious hour, when, listening to the reading of Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he felt his heart strangely warmed with the love of God, and knew himself to be a pardoned sinner, he went straight forward as the Spirit of God directed his steps, till he came to the experience of perfect love in his own soul.
— from the Introduction to Christian Perfection as Taught by John Wesley complied by J. A. Wood.