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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How Do We Consecrate Our Possessions to the Lord?

How may I consecrate all to the Lord, and yet retain the control over all? How, for instance, can I surrender all my property to God and still retain some of it for life's uses?

The question is pertinent. No man can live without appropriating something to his own personality. Property is one of the great natural rights with which we have been invested by our Creator. We could not exist without it.

What are we to do when we consecrate possessions to the Lord? Not to shovel our money into the streets, or to pour it indiscriminately into the treasuries of the nearest institutions, but to become Christ's stewards for the faithful custody and expenditure of this property, making it accomplish the greatest possible good in the well-being of men and the glory of Christ. So much as we can spare from our business and the proper maintenance of our families we must make immediately productive for good in some department of Christ's service, for the Lord at all times condescends to use consecrated substance. But so much as is requisite for the conduct of our business and decent support of those dependent on us may be retained and administered solely for the glory of Him who gave himself for us. Here we must depend each on his own Judgment under the illumination of the word and the Spirit of God.

How may I know that I have laid all on the altar? Self generally rallies on some one point — defends itself in some last ditch. When that is surrendered, the struggle is felt to be over. We know that we have yielded and hung out the white flag, the token of our capitulation. Besides, with all honest souls God is under covenant to reveal to them the state of their hearts. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to hold up a mirror and to furnish a lamp with which we may see our exact visage.

Love Enthroned, Chapter 17.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sanctification and the Theory of Temptation

An exhaustive discussion of the relation of a completely sanctified soul to the possibility of sinning, involves the theory of temptation.

Some teach that sin enters the soul when the sensibilities are stirred by the cognition of the forbidden object by the intellect. We are not of that class. The activity of the emotional nature in the presence of its proper objects is just as inevitable as that of the perceptive faculties. An apple presented to the gaze of a hungry child necessarily awakens, not only a perception, but a desire. This desire is as innocent as the impression on the retina, or the cognition in the mind. Sin comes in when the will indulges the desire, or even fosters it against the remonstrance of conscience. Yet this state of excited sensibility in the presence of a forbidden object is full of peril, for here is where sin is conceived. "Lust when it is conceived bringeth forth sin."

Into this region the Sanctifier enters, and does his work, by exterminating every incentive to sin which is culpable in itself, such as pride and malice; by preventing the improper excitement of the innocent sensibilities, and by reinforcing the will, and inclining it to obey the mandates of the moral sense, the eye of which is now purged from the film of sin.

The abiding Comforter is, therefore, the keeping power within the soul. The vigilance enjoined by our Saviour is obligatory upon the entirely sanctified, and consists in that habit of faith which holds the soul in communion with God, and links it to that spiritual force which gives it constant victory, "being kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Hence we indirectly, yet most effectually, watch against all sin, while we maintain that believing attitude of soul which retains the Holy Spirit in the fullness of his purifying and keeping power.

A rupture in the continuity of this life of faith is the breach through which the forces of Satan enter and recapture the city of Mansoul. He has already passed over the boundary between Christian discretion and fanaticism who imagines that St. Paul did not write for him "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," and that our Saviour did not have in view the highest state of grace attainable under the Gospel when he said, "What I say unto you, I say unto all, watch."

"Hang on His arm alone,
With self-distrusting care,
And deeply in the Spirit groan,
The never-ceasing prayer."

Love Enthroned, Chapter 17. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Is Perfect Love a Special Charism?

We find in some honest minds a theoretical difficulty which constitutes a stone of stumbling in the way of their seeking full salvation. It is the notion that the grace of perfect love is of the nature of a charism, or special gift of the Holy Ghost, dispensed by the Father according to his own will, and hence not attainable by all believers.

Are there not instances in which the fullness of the Spirit, or perfect love, is dispensed in a sovereign manner without compliance with the usual conditions? We dare not say that there are not; for (1.) We read in the Scriptures of one who was to be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. (2.) We believe that the souls of infants, defiled by inborn depravity, are, without faith on their part, entirely cleansed before death by the blood of sprinkling because they are included in the new covenant which is ratified by that universal atonement which saves all souls which do not willfully reject it by unbelief. (3.) For the same reason we believe that all justified souls, all persevering believers in Jesus Christ, who, through imperfect apprehension of the "exceeding greatness of his power" to save to the uttermost," are painfully conscious that they are not cleansed from all inward unrighteousness, are, before death, entirely sanctified by the sovereign will of Him who stands pledged "to finish the good work which he has begun" in them, and "to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy "

Nevertheless we must be careful not to fall into the great error of supposing that a blessing sometimes sovereignly bestowed is not attainable by all who seek it in the way prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. We are not to suppose that because God fed Elijah by the ravens, and the Israelites with manna from heaven, the ordinary and regular mode of obtaining supplies by sowing and reaping is no longer available to the human race.

Says Mr. Wesley,

God's usual method is one thing, but his sovereign pleasure is another. He has wise reasons for hastening and retarding his work. Sometimes he comes suddenly and unexpectedly, sometimes not till we have long looked for him.

Yet WesIey strongly and constantly urges all the justified to press forward and grasp this greatest prize this side of Glory, saying, that "it is neither wise nor modest to affirm that a person must be a believer for any length of time before he is capable of receiving a high degree of the Spirit of holiness."

Love Enthroned, Chapter 17.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is Perfect Love a Requirement for Entering Heaven?

QUESTION: Should the experience of perfect love be taught as a requirement for entering heaven, or as a high privilege of the regenerate and as an especial equipment for a more devoted service for the Master?

ANSWER: We admire Wesley's advice to preach this great blessing by drawing, not by driving. It will do much harm to threaten true believers with hell fire, if they do not consciously receive their full heritage in Christ in this life. There are no such threatenings in the Word of God against the children of God. "If children, then we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." Perfect love is the preparation for the heaven to which the first degree of love gives the title. Every genuine Christian is a candidate for perfect love, if he perseveringly seeks it. No one can love God a little without desiring Him to love him with all his heart, and no one can love with all his might without desiring a larger capacity for loving. Says Faber:

"And they who love God cannot love him by measure, 
For their love is but thirst to love him still better."

The perfect love described by St. John is characterized by its fearlessness, which can arise only from its moral purity. This is the quality of the perfect love which Wesley preached. This is sooner or later the heritage of every persevering believer. From this point onward he is no longer dissatisfied, but he is forever afterwards in time and in eternity unsatisfied, crying with good Ambrose of old, "Ampliora Domine, ampliora" — More, Lord, more.

"Insatiate to this spring I fly;
I drink and yet am ever dry;
Ah! Who against thy charms is proof?
Ah! Who that loves, can love enough?"

Steele's Answers pp. 64, 65.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Killing in Self-Defense

QUESTION: What proof is there in the Bible that it is right to kill in self-defense?

ANSWER: Such an act needs no justification by the Bible, because the instinct of self-preservation is divinely implanted for the very purpose of instantaneous resistance to violence which may cause the death of the assailant. The religion of Jesus Christ does not condemn the healthful action of any one of our primary instincts. He is discussing the lex talionis, the practice of personal retaliation, when he says, "resist not evil," in Matt. 5:39. In the case of the midnight burglar, killed in the act of breaking in, no guilt was incurred. Ex. 22:2, 3.

 — Steele's Answers pp. 63, 64.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When Shall We Shall Know Fully?

QUESTION: In 1 Cor. 13:9 what time is referred to in the clause, "When that which is perfect is come," and verse 12, "Then shall I know fully?"

ANSWER: After the believer's death. The exegetes all concur in this opinion, though there is no mention of death in this magnificent encomium of what Prof. Drummond styles "the greatest thing in the world." A very good man has written a book in proof of the idea that the perfection spoken of is that of perfect love and that the "then" in verse 12 is when this grace is experienced.

Steele's Answers p. 63.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spiritual Crucifixion

QUESTION: The Telescope, my religious weekly, in an article on "Spiritual Circumcision" has the following sentences which I wish you to discuss: (1) "Paul makes no distinction between believers, saying that they crucified, while others are not." (2) "That spiritual crucifixion is in the past tense and refers to justification." (3) "There is no text in proof that a second work is required that the believer may be spiritually crucified."

ANSWER: (1) This does not harmonize with 1 Cor. 3:1-3, where "brethren," "babes in Christ," are described as largely carnal and very much in need of such a change as Paul testifies to in Gal. 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer (American Revision) I that live, but Christ liveth in me." Again, in Phil. 2:19-21, Paul sorrowfully complains that even in his company of Christian ministers only Timothy was like himself wholly consecrated to Christ and dead to selfishness, and that "all" the rest of them "seek their own and not the things of Jesus Christ." This very plainly teaches that there is a wide difference between Christians, some being dead to self, while others are in great need of self-crucifixion, having a selfish regard for themselves, obstructive of their highest usefulness in places where they may have abundant occasion for self-denial and self-sacrifice in promoting the glory of Christ and the well-being of his Body, the church. The Telescope has made the discovery that "crucifixion and death mean only separation." This is well said and it implies a separation from the bent to sinning sought and found by one who is already forgiven and inspired with spiritual life. (2) Justification or pardon is an instantaneous work done for us. It takes place in the mind of God while the new birth and spiritual crucifixion are definite and momentary works of the Holy Spirit wrought in us, the past tense (the Greek aorist) denoting that each of these works is an act and done once for all. (3) 1 Thess. 5:23 is a decisive proof-text which no opponent can explain away. The Greek word "wholly" is used in the New Testament only here. It signifies "perfect, complete in all respects." "Entire" is in the Greek used but twice in the New Testament, "denoting," says Thayer, "ethically, free from sin, faultless." The aorist tense of "sanctify" implies that the act of entire purification is instantaneous and decisive. A similar text is 2 Cor. 7:1, together with the four preceding verses. What sin can be left after cleansing all defilement of the flesh (sins through the body) and spirit (mental sins)? There can be no other kind of sins. Finally, all prayers for entire sanctification and all exhortations to seek it imply its absence in many believers and the possibility of its immediate obtainment, are such proof-texts.

Steele's Answers pp. 61-63.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Measure of the Usefulness of a Preacher

The chief effect of Spirit-baptism is to secure strength of impulse and continuity of effort in the worker himself. Love makes all toil for its object a delight, and furnishes a motive for constant activity in behalf of others.

We have recently heard a venerable bishop quoted as saying that "a revival may occur at any place where are God and a Methodist preacher." We understand by this that every preacher, who is as holy and as believing as he ought to be, may at will, at any time and in any place, see the simultaneous conversion of sinners. The necessary inference is, that all who do not constantly witness this are living in a cold and semi-backslidden state. This inference is afflicting thousands of Christian ministers who enjoy the fullness of the abiding Comforter. Both the inference and the assertion from which it is drawn are untrue.

The great work of a preacher in a certain place may be almost wholly within the Church, to save those who are but slightly healed, and to fill the membership with spiritual power to such a degree that they may act with saving efficacy on the impenitent long after he has passed from that to another field of labor, or to his final reward. God has varieties of work and different agencies, and it is just as foolish for the hand to say to the foot, "You might be a hand if you only had faith," as to say, "I have no need of thee." When we hear such extravagant assertions we are inclined to say "Amen" to a wish recently expressed in our hearing, "O for a baptism of common sense!"

We cannot conclude without exposing and refuting the widely prevalent and mischievous error of estimating the usefulness of a preacher solely by the number of penitent seekers who crowd his altar and receive baptism at his hands. This great and glorious work may be done while neglecting to instruct and build up believers, leading them on from first principles, the milk for babes, to that advanced experience of the perfected believer who requires strong meat for his spiritual sustenance. Thus his Church may be increasing in quantity and decreasing in quality at the same time.

The real power of a Church may decline under a revival preacher. He may be repeating the folly of the priest who undermined the temple in his eagerness to get coal to keep its altar fires burning. Methodists especially cannot be too often told that the hidings of spiritual power are not found in the last census report. "Not by might, (a host in the Hebrew,) nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." Zech. 4:6.

The people who, in these modern times, have largely taken the appointing power in their own hands, should understand that in clamoring for a preacher who may make the greatest stir in their community, and secure the largest rental of the pews, and in passing by the man through whom the highest spiritual purity and power of the Church may be attained, they are not wise. A Church whose members are all aflame with the fullness of the Spirit will always afford a healthful attraction to the unconverted, and will always be making aggression upon the unbelieving world.

"Star preachers" are the poorest possible substitute for a sanctified Church.

— edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 16.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spiritual Dynamics

It is generally supposed that the copious effusion of the Spirit upon the believer to his utmost capacity will render him like an electric battery, emitting such shocks of power that sinners will instantly tremble, and fall down and cry for mercy, as did the thousands under the pentecostal preaching of Peter. Such phenomena do sometimes occur in modern times, but they are exceedingly rare. We are convinced that these large measures of power in individual believers would be more common were the whole Church full of faith in her glorified Head. But even then all would not be endowed with equal measures of spiritual power, all not having suitable spiritual capacity.

Evangelistic or converting power is by no means commensurate with strength of faith and fullness of the spirit or out-gushing emotional experience. Unusual success in this direction requires that there be, in addition to entire consecration to God, a peculiar constitution of the sensibilities, and a personal magnetism' sanctified by the Holy Ghost. It is not derogatory to the Creator to say that he endows men with this magnetic power for this very purpose, not that it may be prostituted to selfish or Satanic uses, but that it may be subsidized by the Holy Spirit and used as a spiritual force to push forward Christ's kingdom. Instead, therefore, of vainly struggling for a gift not designed for us, let us employ to the utmost the gift of which we are possessed, even if it does not glare like a meteor upon the gaping world, nor cause our names to resound through the trumpet of fame.

Our theory of spiritual dynamics is this: The Holy Spirit sheds abroad love in the believer's heart. Love is power. This power is always efficient to conquer sin, and in its higher degrees to overcome self. But its effect upon others is modified by our temperament and mental constitution.

Some are designed by nature to be, when surcharged with the Spirit, like galvanic batteries of a thousand-cell power, electrifying vast multitudes with the shock of saving Gospel truth; while others, endowed constitutionally with a smaller capacity for the exercise of immediate suasive influence, are more largely gifted in the direction of a well-balanced intellect, adapted to instruct and edify believers — the chief function of the pastoral office. See Eph. 4:11-13. The history of the Church, both apostolic and modern, sustains this view. Peter was the preacher on the day of Pentecost, not by chance, but by Divine purpose. Thomas could not have been substituted with the same results. His feebler grasp of truth, smaller spiritual caliber, and inferior personal magnetism, could not have been the channel through which the floods of spiritual life and power were borne to the multitude of dead souls. The quick and generous impulses, the inflammable sensibilities, the reinvigorated faith and ardent love of Peter, recently graciously restored to a sense of the love of Jesus, were the divinely-appointed aqueduct through which the first full out-gush of the water of life should deluge the thirsty earth. Nor would Philip, with his materialistic turn of mind, nor even John, with his contemplative and subjective cast, though aflame with love to Jesus, have been just the man to carry the Gospel to the headquarters of Cornelius, and be the medium through which the Holy Ghost should fall upon all his household. It was the providential arrangement that both Jews and Gentiles should receive the first outpouring of the Spirit through Peter, because he was the best medium of this great blessing.

Modern days have witnessed the career of great evangelists — Whitefield, Wesley, Finney, Caughey, and Earle — through whom multitudes have been aroused from the sleep of sin and awakened to newness of life, to be afterward under the care of thousands of less conspicuous but not less useful "pastors and teachers," having also for their work other gifts and energies of the Spirit. While, therefore, every one should earnestly covet the best gift, he should not rest satisfied till he has received the grace of the Holy Ghost in the plenitude of his purifying and inspiring efficacy. Then he should thankfully employ the gift bestowed, and not in vain repinings covet the more showy gift of his fellow-laborer in the Lord's vineyard.

In conclusion, we cannot be too well on our guard against the mistake of inferring great grace from great apparent usefulness, and vice versa. Men with very little grace, and some with none at all, have been very successful in awakening slumbering sinners; while holy men, in the most intimate communion of the Holy Ghost, have toiled on for years in labors apparently fruitless. I say apparently, because the whole chain of sequences is badly tangled, and it is impossible to trace the invisible footsteps of each man's influence. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God giveth the increase. He may see more fidelity and sacrifice in the humble water-carrier than in the dignified seed-bearer, and proportion his rewards accordingly.

— edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 16.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What is Saving Faith In Jesus Christ?

QUESTION: Briefly describe saving faith in Jesus Christ.

ANSWER: This is a very important request. There is much which passes for faith in Christ which does not save. An eclectic faith does not save, the faith that dwells upon pleasant Gospel truths and ignores or rejects all disagreeable truths. In these days many are trusting in a fragmentary God regarding only the love side of the Divine character, forgetting that he is the Executive of the moral law. saving faith believes all that Christ taught about heaven and hell, about eternal life and eternal punishment. Saving faith receives Jesus as Lord as well as the Teacher. To Him the will must bow. We must enthrone Him over our lives and render Him unhesitating obedience. Many seekers fail at this point. Again, there must be perfect trust in Him as the only Savior. Many think they are believing in Christ, while they are secretly leaning on their morality, their good works, the priest, the sacraments, the church. Again, an impenitent faith is unsaving. Penitence is the only soil out of which true faith can spring.

Steele's Answers pp. 60, 61.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Hypothetical Case

QUESTION: A. and B. are children of God having the witness of the Spirit to their adoption. both aspire after perfect love as the heritage of the believer. A. is suddenly killed in a railroad disaster. According to the Wesleyan theory he is instantaneously sanctified and taken to heaven. Why does God not do the same blessed work in B. who sat by his side and escaped unharmed? (2) Where in the Bible are we taught that he does not?

ANSWER: As there was an element of sovereignty in taking the one and leaving the other, so there may well be an element of sovereignty in the different conditions of their sanctification. B. will be sanctified wholly when, through his persevering faith, Christ is revealed to him by the Holy Ghost as altogether lovely, while A. was in the twinkling of an eye entirely purified when Christ was revealed to his disembodied spirit in the moment of his death. Both had title to heaven and both desired a fitness for their inheritance. The only arbitrariness in this case is the manner in which the transforming vision of the Son of God should take place. (2) This question resolves itself into another, namely, Where in the Scriptures are we taught that all regenerated persons are not wholly sanctified? We answer, All Scriptures which exhort the regenerate to cleanse themselves, and all in which prayer for entire purity of heart is offered in behalf of those who are already justified.

Steele's Answers pp. 59, 60.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sin Burnt Out

QUESTION: Is there any distinction between entire sanctification and having the power of sin burnt out?

ANSWER: No. both mean the extinction of the hereditary proclivity to sin, as C. Wesley poetically expresses it:

"Refining fire, go through my heart;
Illuminate my soul;
Scatter thy life through every part,
And sanctify the whole."
Steele's Answers p. 59.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Can Christians Live Without Sin?

QUESTION: Are we to understand that the regenerated can live without sin?

ANSWER: "Sin properly defined," says Wesley, "is the willful transgression of the known law of God." The new birth implants a new principle in the heart which gives him victory over sin. The principle is love to God "shed abroad in the hearts by the Holy Spirit." It is unnatural for one who loves God willfully to violate his known command. Hence John says: "He that is born of God sinneth not." There is an improper definition of sin of a wider sweep embracing the least deviation from the absolute holiness of God, not only in voluntary and intelligent acts, but also in the depraved tendency inherited from Adam and perfectly involuntary. This is called by theologians "original sin." The Methodists, and Arminians generally, teach that this lacks the essential elements of sin which are volition and guilt. From this kind of sin regeneration does not deliver. But it does enable the believer to resist every temptation to transgress the visible, fiery boundary between what is known to be right and what is known to be wrong. It does greatly weaken that "bent to sinning" which entire sanctification removes, but it does not remove the soul from the sphere of temptation. Every soul in probation is within bow-shot of the devil, as was the Son of God himself while on the earth.

Steele's Answers pp. 58, 59

EDITOR'S NOTE: I have discovered that people are often shocked to discover what John Wesley actually taught on this topic. Compare what Steele says above with what Wesley says in the quotes compiled here: THE JUSTIFIED AND REGENERATE STATE DOES NOT ADMIT OF COMMITTING SIN.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Only Salvation of Orthodoxy

Not only does the natural man, devoid of spiritual illumination, strongly drift toward Unitarian views of Christ; but the Christian Church, under high intellectual culture and low spirituality, tends in the same direction. Hence the only salvation of orthodoxy is in the baptism of the Holy Spirit — the anointing that abideth and teacheth — poured by the Divine hand upon the mass of believers. What the world needs is not a mere teacher to communicate something about God, but to know God himself by his own personal manifestation to each heart.

This personal and loving manifestation of God to the soul required two steps: First, the incarnation, to bring God into the sphere of our sympathies in that most affecting way in which he is presented by the manger, the garden, and the cross. But born into the world a helpless infant, unfolding in physical, mental, and spiritual power under the laws of normal development, subject to the limitations and ills of humanity, his Godhead was not so conspicuous as his humanity. The Divine glory which he had with the Father before the world was, was eclipsed by the robe of clay in which it was wrapped. Only a subdued brightness gleamed through the earthly vesture. But the time came when it was expedient for Jesus to take the second step, when his deity should burst forth, a full-orbed sun upon this dark world. To this end Christ withdraws the visible, material form, in order that it may no more divert the eye from the full splendors of his Godhead (Godhood). He goes up on high and is glorified, and sends down the proof in the gift of the Comforter, whose great mission on earth is to "glorify," exalt, deify, the Son of God by a revelation of his divinity in the inmost consciousness of every one who loves him.

This undoubted, assured knowledge of Jesus Christ as "God over all, blessed for ever," emboldened the apostles to preach, and to suffer shame joyfully, for his sake. This knowledge is described by St. John as comprising "all things." "But ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things."

All spiritual truth is centered in Jesus Christ. To know him by the anointing is to know "all things pertaining to life and godliness." To know Christ is to know the law, for love is the fulfilling of the law "And ye need not that any man should teach you." The highest and most trustworthy cognitions are those of the intuitions. The logic of Aristotle and Bacon cannot reach up to this knowledge of the Divine Jesus revealed in the very sanctuary of the soul by the Holy Spirit. Gal. 1:16....

We cannot conceive of an assertion more positive and explicit of the perfect spiritual knowledge possessed by those whom he addresses in this epistle. They had what St. Paul craved for the Ephesians, "the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," or intellectual comprehension or logical statement.

Love Enthroned, Chapter 13.

Friday, April 12, 2013

How Could Christ Have Been in Heaven While on Earth?

QUESTION: How could Christ be in heaven while on earth, as taught in John 1:18 and 3:13?
"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." (John 1:18 KJV)

"And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (John 3:13 KJV)

ANSWER: The first text, "in the bosom of the Father," we understand as an oriental figure to express endearment, beautifully translated by the Twentieth Century New Testament, "God the only Son, who is ever close to the Father's heart." The other text, "even the Son of man which is in heaven," in several critical texts, and oldest manuscripts ends with the word "man," omitting "which is in heaven." See the margin of the Revision. By this explanation we rid Johns's Gospel of of the unthinkable idea that only a part of the personality of the Son of God was incarnated.

Steele's Answers pp. 57, 58.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Only Begotten God

QUESTION: In the Revision there is this marginal reading, to John 1:18: "Many very ancient authorities read 'God only begotten.'" (1) What are these authorities? (2) If this is the true reading, does it relate to the Incarnation?

ANSWER: (1) Three of the four oldest manuscripts, two of the oldest versions, three ancient commentators, and the following critical editions: Tregelles, Weiss, and Westcott and Hort sustain this marginal reading. Several ancient writers quote it as written by John, and others use the expression "the only begotten God," without referring it to the Scriptures, just as we use many scriptural phrases, without saying they are quotations. We predict that the next revision will put this marginal reading in the text, and the present text in the margin. (2) We do not believe that either of these readings relate to the virgin birth. Adam Clarke and Moses Stuart believed that the Logos did not become the Son of God till he became the son of Mary. Richard Watson felt called to refute this error. His extended and unanswerable argument in proof of the "eternal Sonship of Christ" is found in his Institutes.

Steele's Answers  pp. 56, 57.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Was Cornelius Already Saved When Peter Was Sent to Him?

QUESTION: Was Cornelius saved when Peter was sent to him? If so, what does Acts 11:14 mean, "Who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved?"

ANSWER: Living up to his best light pagan Cornelius was an acceptable candidate for Christian salvation (see Acts 10:35 R.V.) He was what Wesley calls a servant and not consciously a son of God. Before his heart-warming in the Moravian chapel, Wesley says he was a servant of God and safe, but did not know it. His new experience of the witness of the Spirit enabled him to say, "Now I am a child of God and know that I am safe." All those pious pagans that have the spirit of faith (the disposition to receive Christ, the object of faith, when he is presented) and the purpose of righteousness (the disposition to keep all of God's commandments when revealed), are safe according to Romans 2:14, 15. Wesley says, "They are saved through Christ, though they know him not." The saving efficacy of the atonement extends beyond the knowledge of Christ. If it were not so, justice would demand a probation after death in order to save infants and such pious pagans as we have just described.

Steele's Answers p. 56.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Theory and Experience

Never before were there so many believers, of every denomination, honestly and earnestly calling for really clear light on the subject of the higher life. Therefore, let every one who has a heaven-lit torch now lift it high, and keep it aloft, that all may see the light and rejoice therein. 'Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all tribulation, that we may be able to, comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.' Let there be laid before the Church, especially before souls panting after 'all the fullness of God,' the exact transcript of each Christian consciousness under the illumination of the Holy Ghost, so far as language can be a vehicle of that which 'passeth knowledge,' and not only will souls in trouble be comforted, but there will be accumulated a mass of facts out of which some analytic mind — some theological Sir William Hamilton — may do what all systemizers have hitherto failed to do, construct out of the Bible and experience a consistent and symmetrical science of Christian perfection.

When preconceived theories modify testimony, its value is proportionally diminished. This serious defect inheres in the statements of many, who under a dogmatic bias, have unconsciously shaped their expressions to suit the demands of a supposed orthodox ideal. I suppose that it is not possible for me to divest myself entirely of the influence of opinions, and to detail in unmixed purity the changes which the transforming Spirit has wrought in my consciousness. Of this the reader may be assured, that as a witness on a most important question I will endeavor to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Let him who values his theories more than the truth, not expect me to color my statements to suit the complexion of his opinions.

In some important particulars my recent experience contradicts my own lifelong beliefs. Sharply defined transitions after regeneration, sudden uplifts in the divine life, had been excluded from my creed as unphilosophical and unnecessary. I had never, though I had read such things in Christian biography, really believed it possible for a soul to tabernacle on earth a whole year without a cloud, or a doubt, or a temptation, other than an occasional momentary thrust of the adversary, easily parried with the shield of faith. Twelve months ago I should have received with utter incredulity the statement that any one could utter, mentally or orally, a doxology to Jesus three hundred and sixty five days long, with no intermission save that of sleep, and that balmy sleep itself would often flee from the presence of a sweeter delight, the luxury of praise. I find my mistake corrected, that the witness of the Spirit, in its higher manifestations, is intermittent. The reverse is true. It is intermittent in its lower manifestations; in its highest it is constant. All the philosophies I find at fault in the assertion that the human mind cannot endure the strain of high Joy for a long period; and that the more intense, the more evanescent it is.

— From Love Enthroned, Chapter 11.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Entering Into The Rest of Faith

I have been content with a daily confession with the mouth, and private letters to my friends, carefully refraining from any appearance of seeking to be lionized in the public prints. But my friends urge me to run this risk for the strengthening of my brethren in this age, when a subtle skepticism respecting Christian experience is poisoning and paralyzing myriads of professed followers of Christ.

At my conversion, thirty years ago, through weakness of faith, the seal of my justification was impressed so slightly, that the word Abba, my Father, was scarcely legible; yet, in answer to a mother's prayers in my infancy, consecrating with conscious acceptance her son to the Christian ministry, I was called to preach, but called with a 'woe unto me,' instead of an 'anointing with the oil of gladness.' I will not dwell upon the unpleasant theme of a ministry of twenty years almost fruitless in conversions through a lack of an unction from the Holy One. My great error was in depending on the truth alone to break stony hearts. The Holy Spirit, though formally acknowledged and invoked, was practically ignored. My personal experience during much of this time consisted in

'Sorrows, and sins, and doubts, and fears,
A howling wilderness.'

But an evangelist of extraordinary power to awaken slumbering professors and to bring sinners to the foot of the cross, came across my path. I sought to find the hidings of his power, and discovered that it was the fullness of the Holy Spirit enjoyed as an abiding blessing, styled by him 'the rest of faith.' I was convicted. I sought earnestly the same great gift, but could not exercise faith till I had made public confession of my sin in preaching self more than Christ, and being satisfied with the applause of the Church above the approval of her Divine Head. I immediately began to feel a strange freedom daily increasing, the cause of which I did not distinctly apprehend. I was then led to seek the conscious and joyful presence of the Comforter in my heart.

Having settled the question that this was not merely an apostolic blessing, but for all ages, 'He shall abide with you forever,' I took the promise, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you.' The 'verily' had to me all the strength of an oath. Out of the 'whatsoever' I took all temporal blessings, not because I did not believe them to be included, but because I was not then seeking them. I then wrote my own name in the promise, not to exclude others, but to be sure that I included myself. Then writing underneath these words, 'Today is the day of salvation,' I found that my faith had three points to master: the Comforter; for me; now. Upon the promise I ventured with an act of appropriating faith, claiming the Comforter as my right in the name of Jesus. For several hours I clung by naked faith, praying and repeating Charles Wesley's hymn —

'Jesus, shine all-victorious love,
Shed in my heart abroad.'

I then ran over in my mind the great facts in Christ's life, especially dwelling upon Gethsemane and Calvary; his ascension, priesthood, and all-atoning sacrifice. Suddenly I became conscious of a mysterious power exerting itself upon my sensibilities. My physical sensations, though not of a nervous temperament, in good health, sitting alone and calm, were like those of electric sparks passing through my bosom with slight but painless shocks, melting my hard heart into a fiery stream of love.

Christ became so unspeakably precious that I instantly dropped all earthly good-reputation, property, friends, family, everything — in the twinkling of an eye, my soul crying out, —

'None but Christ to me be given,
None but Christ in earth or heaven.'

He stood forth as my Saviour, all radiant in his loveliness, "chiefest among ten thousand." Yet there was no phantasm, or image, or uttered word, apprehended by my intellect. The affections were the sphere of this wonderful phenomenon, best described as 'the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.' It seemed as if the attraction of Jesus, the loadstone of my soul, was so strong that my heart would be drawn out of my body, and through the college window by which I was sitting, and upward into the sky. O how vivid and real was all this to me! I was more certain that Christ loved me than I was of the existence of the solid earth and shining sun. I intuitively apprehended Christ.

My college class were just then discussing the subject of the intuitive cognitions. I began to apply Sir William Hamilton's tests of these, namely, that they are simple, incomprehensible, necessary, and universal. The last adjective, of course, could not apply to the intuitive belief of one individual, though subsequent observation abundantly demonstrates that all believers who fulfill the conditions required for awakening the spiritual perceptions have the same intuition of Christ.3 But my consciousness testified that my certainty of Christ's love had the three first-named characteristics, that it was to me even a necessary truth, the contrary of which was as unthinkable as the annihilation of space. The last remarkable peculiarity remained more than forty days, after which I had hours in which I could conceive the contrary of the proposition, 'Christ loves me.' On such occasions my firm conviction of his love was not an intuition, but an inference from my past experience with the absence of any feeling of condemnation. I no longer doubt Wesley's doctrine of the direct witness of the Spirit as distinct from the testimony of my spirit discerning the fruits of the Spirit and inferring his presence and work. I cannot to this day read the promises without feeling a sudden but delightful shock of an invisible power sweetly applying them to my heart.

Thus much I think is due to those who would study this manifestation of the Spirit from the standpoint of theology and mental philosophy, a point of view I myself have often wished that remarkable experiences could be seen from. But language is wholly inadequate to express a manifestation of Christ which did not formulate itself in words, but in the mighty, overwhelming pulsations of love. The joy for weeks was unspeakable. The impulse was irresistible to speak of it to everybody, saint or sinner, Protestant or Papist, in public and in private. At the time of this writing, seven weeks from the first manifestation, the ecstasy has subsided into a delicious and unruffled peace, rising into ecstasy only in acts of especial devotion. I find no fear of man, nor of death. I can no longer accuse myself of unbelief, the root of all sin. What may be in me, below the gaze of consciousness, I do not know. I must wait till occasions shall put me to the test. It would not be wise for me to assert that all sinful anger — there is a righteous anger — is taken away till I have passed through a college rebellion, or something equally provoking. If sin consists only in active energies, I am not conscious of such dwelling in me. If sin consists in a state, as some with truth assert when they describe original sin, I infer that I am not in such a state, from the absence of sinful energies flowing therefrom, and more especially from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This has been accompanied with such a feeling of inward cleanness, that I doubt not that the Purifier has taken up his abode in the temple of my heart. But the direct testimony of the heavenly Guest is love, LOVE, all-consuming LOVE, flaming in the heart of Jesus — love to me. I feel that sin cannot abide the flames of this furnace kindled to such an intensity about me. If others should insist that it is the direct witness of entire holiness, I could not dispute the assertion, so assured am I, beyond a doubt, that, by the grace of Jesus Christ, I have lived to see the death of the old man, the extinction of 'all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.'

My personal friends do not need to be informed that the doctrine of entire sanctification, as a specialty, has not been my hobby, but rather my abhorrence, in consequence of the imperfect manner in which it has been inculcated and exemplified. Hence, if there is anything in this experience confirmatory of that doctrine as a distinct work, considering my former attitude toward this subject, my testimony is something like that of Saul of Tarsus to the truth of Christianity. If I have any advice to give to Christians, it is to cease to discuss the subtleties and endless questions arising from entire sanctification or Christian perfection, and all cry mightily to God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is certainly promised to all believers in Jesus.

O that every minister and layman would inquire the way to the upper room in Jerusalem', and there abide till tongues of fire flame from their heads!

— Edited from Love Enthroned Chapter 11.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Do Humans Have a Spirit?

QUESTION: what does Wesley mean in his note on 1 Thes. 5:23, where he denies that spirit is a constituent part of man, and says that "adventitious, and the supernatural gift of God to be found in Christians only"?

ANSWER: He teaches that body and soul constitute man. He does not believe there are three distinct essentials in man, but two only, that the human spirit is not an entity, but the soul's capacity to be quickened into spiritual life by the life-giving Holy Spirit received by faith in Jesus Christ. Wesley means that spirituality cannot be predicated of the natural man before regeneration. He had no sympathy with the widely spreading modern error that immortality is not of nature, but is the gift of God for believers only. He believed in the eternal punishment of the finally impenitent rejector of Christ. Of modern contemporary theologians Holsten and Weiss deny the existence of a πνεῦμα (pneuma, spirit) in the natural man, thus confirming Wesley's doctrine.

— from Steele's Answers pp. 55, 56.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Did Wesley Teach About Paradise?

QUESTION: Does Wesley say in one of his sermons that Paradise is a place where believers are purified before they are admitted to heaven?

ANSWER: We have not time to read again all of Wesley's sermons, more than a hundred, but we believe that no such doctrine can be found in them for the following reasons: (1) We have been reading Wesley's writings more than sixty years, and have never found it. (2) He was very insistent on entire sanctification in this life and could not consistently teach any doctrine which would weaken the motive to seek perfect purity here and now. (3) He could not have been so unwise as to define Paradise in exactly the same way as the Papists define Purgatory. (4) He would not in his sermons have given a different description of Paradise from that found in his Notes on the New Testament, "The place where the souls of the righteous remain from deaths till the resurrection" (Luke 23:43); "The seat of happy spirits in their separate state, between death and the resurrection" (1 Cor. 12:4); "A garden of pleasure" (Rev. 2:7). These are his descriptions of Paradise.

— from Steele's Answers pp. 54, 55.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Peter's Love for Jesus

QUESTION: In John 21:16-17 was Peter's grief enhanced because Jesus used a weaker verb when he asked him the third time, "Lovest thou me?"

ANSWER: The two New Testament verbs are ἀγαπάω (agapao) and φιλέω phileo, the first the love of choice, the other the love of feeling. Peter in his answers insisted on using the latter, till finally Christ, who had twice used the former, uses the verb which Peter preferred. The whole question turns on Peter's conception of the two verbs with regard to their relative strength. For in one respect Peter's favorite verb is stronger because it is warmer and more emotional, and Jesus has himself used it in John 16:27, "Ye have loved me and believed that I came from the Father." Others think that Peter in his penitence shrank from using the word indicating decided love of the will, instead of the term expressive of inclination and emotion, and that he was grieved and humbled because he could not affirm the strong kind of love that Jesus was seeking. The reader is left to choose between these two theories. I think it was very much like Peter to use what appeared to him to be the stronger verb and to bring Jesus to use his term.

— from Steele's Answers pp. 53, 54.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Most Marvelous Manifestation

I have experienced a most marvelous manifestation of the love of Christ to me. O the unsearchable riches of Christ! Do you know how unspeakably precious Jesus is when you trust him fully? My experience was never marked. I never could tell the day of my conversion. My evidence was chiefly an inference, rarely the direct testimony of the Spirit. Hence my utterances have been feeble and destitute of power. But all this is gone by. God has so certified this blessed Gospel to my soul, that I shall no more blow the trumpet with an uncertain sound.

Rev. Mr. Earle spent four days here a month ago. The spirit of his preaching, and his success, and his remarks at his farewell on what he styles "the rest of faith," set me thinking and praying, and confessing the coldness of my heart, and my satisfaction in past days with the mere perfunctory performance of Christian duty. I began to pray for the baptism of the Spirit to enable me to carry on the revival which has broken out in the village. God answered my prayer most graciously. I am at times so overwhelmed with the love of God that I cannot stand the pressure on the earthen vessel, and have to beg God to stay his hand.

The joy is indescribable. I am a free man in Christ Jesus — "free indeed;" free from the fear of man. I can approach any person anywhere. I am free in my utterance. My mouth is opened, my heart is enlarged toward sinners. I can't help preaching. As the boy said of the whistle, "It whistles itself." Every body is astonished at the complete and wonderful transformation through which I have passed. There is a new meaning to the hymns of Charles Wesley especially to 'Wrestling Jacob,' which I always admired aesthetically, but was never in experimental sympathy with. O how real the promises are! I have been treating them like our irredeemable greenbacks, not representing gold today, but payable in coin at some indefinite future time. I have found out, to my unspeakable Joy, that God never has suspended specie payment; that behind every word of promise there is gold coin in the treasury of heaven.

I can't interpret the blessing; whether it is the second or third, it certainly is the greatest that I ever received. IT STAYS. It is very strange that my mouth should be filled with laughter, and my tongue with praises — the coolest and least demonstrative man in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Last Thursday, November 17 [1870], I think I went where Paul did when he heard things not lawful, not possible to utter. My whole being, soul and body, was pervaded with the indescribable joy of the Holy Spirit. The nervous sensations were delicious, a thousandfold more than any I ever experienced before. I believe that on that day — though the Divine influence had been descending for two weeks — my great Joshua brought me in, and allotted me a portion in the mountain of God. If I should derive my theology from my feelings I should have to adopt one of the five points of Calvin,

"But this I do find,
We two are so joined
He'll not live in glory and leave me behind."

The same feeling appears in "Wrestling Jacob;" after his victory he exclaims: —

"Nor have I power from Thee to move;
Thy nature and Thy name is Love."

— from Love Enthroned, Chapter 15.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Oneness With Christ

The advocates of an advanced Christian experience insist, with great unanimity, that there is a well defined line separating it from the former Christian life. We are often called on to state the specific difference — to draw the line between these two religious states; hence the attempts to discriminate between the new birth and entire sanctification are some of them conclusive, and others unsatisfactory. We are not whetting our theological razor to assist at this hairsplitting; we need less theorizing and more exemplification — less dogma and more experience.

Are there men and women now on earth living the so called "higher life?" There are saints treading the earth day by day, victors over the world and sin, "dead indeed unto sin," and "free indeed" from its very indwelling. It was not so with their former Christian state. Can they tell us what is the most conspicuous line running through their consciousness, separating these experiences. The unanimous testimony is, that it is a sense of oneness with Christ, contrasting most strongly with the former feeling of duality, or twoness, if we may coin a Saxon word, instead of borrowing from the Latin. We have heard of a converted Indian who came to the missionary one day in great distress, saying, "There are two Indians inside of me — a good and a bad." He expressed what all Christians feel in their initial spiritual life. There is a painful distraction. The secret is, that self is still alive, and disputing with Christ the throne of the soul. Self has not learned the difficult lesson of perfect and joyful submission. There is an inward schism between the spiritual and carnal forces. The prayer of the psalmist has not been offered in faith, "Unite my heart to fear thy name."

Octavius, who had been a triumvir, thought it for the interest of peace that the world should have but one ruler, and, styling himself Augustus, he became that ruler by the defeat of Mark Antony. It was found that a three-men power, or a two-men power, only provoked strife. It is certainly for your soul's peace, my dear reader, that you should henceforth have but one sovereign. The one-man power is what you need — the God-man. Which will you have for your king? Jesus, or Barabbas or Self? Which will bring in genuine, eternal peace? The Prince of Peace. He is able to dethrone and extinguish self as a foe to his reign.

— from Love Enthroned, Chapter 14.