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.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wandering Thoughts in Prayer

We should be happy to inform millions of groaning saints that there is attainable in the present life a state of love to Christ so strong as to exclude every wandering thought in prayer. [But, this is not so.]

John Wesley, in his younger days, declared that such a state could be reached by saints in the flesh. He lived to see his error, and to confess it in his sermon on Wandering Thoughts. This was written to correct a practical error into which some were running, of seeking the sanctification of the mind as distinct from the heart. These persons believed, that by the power of the Holy Spirit the succession of the thoughts could be so controlled as to shut out every improper or wandering thought, and that the mind could be stayed upon God in such a way that no distracting thought could intrude. Wesley saw that this was putting the work of entire sanctification so high as to render it unattainable, and that the advocacy of this extreme view was doing great damage to the precious doctrine of perfect love, which is far different from perfect thinking.

To all who are in distress on this account we commend the entire sermon.

The philosophy of this whole subject lies in a few words. The work of the Divine Spirit is chiefly, if not wholly, comprised in a rectification of the will. Says Mr. Fletcher, "Christian perfection extends chiefly to the will, which is the capital moral power of the soul; leaving the understanding ignorant of ten thousand things. Adamic perfection extended to the whole man." The succession of ideas is independent of the will, and hence it is not the province of grace to prevent wandering thoughts. It may partially cure the evil by drawing the soul toward Christ as toward a great magnet, so that the tendency of even our random thoughts may be toward him.

— edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 6.