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.
QUESTION: Is there a self-life that is holy, and a sinful self?
ANSWER: There is but one self, not two. If this one self leans toward sin, it needs to be changed so as to lean toward holiness. St. Paul calls these two different states, the old man and the new. Hence some erroneously think there are two persons. When we speak of self-crucifixion we do not mean self-annihilation, but the change of the soul's gravitation from downward to upward, or from being self-centered to God-centered. The self which bears the full image of Christ does not need to be nailed to the cross.
QUESTION: Explain Heb. 4:12: "God's Message is a living and active power, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing it's way till it penetrates soul and spirit — not joints only, but the very marrow — and detecting the inmost thoughts and purposes of the mind." (The Twentieth Century Version.)
ANSWER: This excellent version gives the idea not of the separating, but of the pervasive and penetrating power of God's truth accompanied by the illuminating and purifying spirit. In the priestly examination of an animal for sacrifice, the outside was examined and then the flesh after it was skinned, and finally the backbone was cleft with a cleaver from end to end, dividing the spinal cord so as to detect the least speck of disease. The writer of this epistle uses this priestly practice to illustrate the office of the Holy Spirit in the detection of inward impurity.
In the interest of clearness of thought and in vindication of Christian truth, let us see first what we mean by the phrases "Sons of God," "Children of God," and "Fatherhood of God."
Strictly speaking, there is but one Person so linked to God by the genetic tie as to be "the Son of God." Hence He is "the only begotten son." His being is grounded on the Divine Nature and is without time limits. He is the eternal Son. All other beings are grounded not on the nature of God, but upon His will, within time limits. They are creatures. The Divine Logos is never spoken of in the Holy Scriptures as a creature. God is never called the creator, but the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ. His sonship is unique and unshared by any other being in the universe.
Sonship to God, when applied to others, is figurative, as is also the Fatherhood of God.
What then is signified when an archangel, or a man, is called a son of God? There are several things in the relation of a human son to a father which might be the foundation of this metaphor, such as actual descent and possession of the identical nature — which we have disclaimed for all creatures — or resemblance, imitation, obedience, love; qualities which may be summed up in the word likeness. This likeness is both natural and moral. The natural likeness of the human creature to the Creator consists in personality, intelligence, a moral sense, implying freedom and spirituality, i.e., Spirit is the essential principle. The moral likeness exists when man possesses qualities like God's moral attributes, love, holiness, justice, wisdom and truth. But since the moral attributes eclipse the natural in excellence, likeness to God is predicated only of the possession of the moral qualities. Satan, though still like God in his natural attributes, is in no scriptural sense a son of God, because of his lack of the moral likeness.
This is true of all unregenerate men. They are not sons of God. Christ plainly told certain Jews that they were of their father, the devil, because they had taken on his moral characteristics. The very taproot of modern liberalism, universal salvation on the ground of the universal Fatherhood of God, lies in a neglect of these scriptural distinctions, and in making the divine Fatherhood natural and genetic, like human fatherhood, and in reasoning from the latter to the former on this wise, "as no human father would be so cruel as to banish his child from his presence forever, much less will the divine Father." The fallacy lies in the assumption, that a wicked man is a child of God, when he is really a child of Satan, because he has taken on his moral likeness. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews declares that certain men "are bastards, and not sons." It will not do to literalize or carnalize the terms "son" and "Father," in speaking of man's relation to God. For the outcome will be universal salvation on the ground of a fondling sentimentalism, an unholy love on the part of God, instead of moral likeness to Him in holy character.
Another error is expressed in the maxim, "Once in grace, always in grace," based upon the idea, Once a child, always a child. Substitute, "Once like God, always like God," and the fallacy immediately stands out to view, for Satan once bore the moral image of his Maker. If sonship to God is pressed as a proof of the impossibility of becoming a son of perdition, why may not sonship to the devil be alleged to be an insuperable barrier to becoming a son of God?
Are our positions sustained by the Bible? We reply that in the New Testament sonship is the peculiar and distinguishing privilege of those who by faith receive Jesus Christ (John i. 12), and it consists in conformity to the image of the Son of God (Rom. viii. 29), and in no case do the words, "Sons of God," "Children," and "Father," indicate anything but a spiritual likeness.
Once, and once only, St. Paul, while preaching on Mars Hill, taking natural religion as his starting point, so as to stand on common ground with his pagan audience, speaks of the human race in the words of a Greek poet, as the offspring of God. Even here he is careful to limit the metaphor to likeness in those natural characteristics in which men consciously differ from "gold or silver or stone." For they are conscious of freedom and moral accountability.
In all the New Testament the terms "son," "child," "sonship," "adoption," and "Father," when applied to the relation of men to God, signify a spiritual likeness enstamped in outline by the Holy Spirit at that religious crisis figuratively called the new birth, and in completeness at the subsequent crisis of entire sanctification. Utterly foreign to the Gospels and the Epistles, and to apostolic preaching, as reported in the Acts of the Apostles, is salvation on the ground of the natural fatherhood of God. Such a doctrine would "make the cross of Christ of none effect," because it would be needless in the scheme of salvation.
Jesus was begotten of the Holy Ghost; the sons of God are born of the Spirit. Jesus was circumcised the eighth day: the real, spiritual seed of Abraham have their circumcision not in the flesh, but in the spirit, being cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit. Jesus, after a period of religious development, was baptized with the Holy Spirit; so are all those children of God who tarry in Jerusalem with persevering faith. Jesus had the certificate of His sonship in the repeated utterance of His Father, "This is My beloved Son;" so does the child of God hear the attestation of his divine adoption prompting the joyful shout, Abba, Father:—
"The Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God."
Jesus was tempted in all points; so are we. He was victorious: "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world;" so are we victors: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Jesus was crucified; so are all those sons of God who count not the self-life dear unto them. "I have been crucified with Christ [and so remain]: it is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me." [Alford's Version.] The primal son of God was buried. Thus was his death solemnly certified. So does the child of God die unto sin, and the water poured in holy baptism, symbolizing the outpoured Spirit, seals and ratifies his death unto sin. Jesus arose from the dead; the sons of God arise to newness of life by a spiritual resurrection, soon to be followed by a quickening of their mortal bodies because the Spirit has dwelt within them. [Rom. viii. 14, margin.] Jesus ascended; so shall we be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Our File-leader has been glorified; so shall we, who have borne the image of the earthly, bear the image of the heavenly. Our elder Brother has sat down on His Father's throne as a fore-gleam of our wonderful enthronement as kings and priests: "Unto him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." Once more, Jesus Christ will judge the universe, and at His side will sit His brethren as associate judges: "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?"
These points of similarity of the Son of God to His brethren, the sons of God, are strikingly summarized in
THE SEVEN "TOGETHERS"
in the Scripture, which show the wondrous identification of the Lord Jesus Christ with believers, in all the experiences of the spiritual life and its rewards. They indicate the benevolent purpose of God in our redemption, and His plan in effecting that purpose. It is affirmed of us by the Spirit, in the Word, that we are —
Crucified together with Christ (Gal. ii. 20).
Quickened together with Christ (Col. ii. 13).
Raised together with Christ (Eph. ii. 6).
Seated together with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. ii. 6).
Sufferers together with Christ (Rom. viii. 17).
Heirs together with Christ (Rom. viii. 17). And that we are to be—
Glorified together with Christ (Rom. viii. 17).
"Together with the Lord —
What bursts of light I see!
Light, life, and joy are in that word;
'As He is, so are we.'"
QUESTION: Can repentance be genuine, if based upon hope of reward or fear of punishment? Is the following sentence true, "Virtue founded on fear is only vice in a fit of dejection"?
ANSWER: this kinds like the distant echo of the New England Hopkinsian doctrine that holiness is disinterested benevolence, that the least regard for our own well-being is inconsistent with true holiness, and repentance is not genuine if it does not include willingness to be damned for the glory of God. In the first quarter of the last century, a boy named Mark Traffon, in a Calvinian inquiry meeting in Maine, was asked if he was willing to be sent to hell forever for God's glory, and replied: "No, sir, I have decided objections." He went to hear an Arminian preacher, was converted, and became an eminent minister. Moses had respect to the recompense of reward, and Noah, moved by fear, prepared for himself an ark. In Christ's preaching he perpetually appealed to men's hopes and fears, especially to the latter. He uttered more alarm truth and said more about hell fire than any other person in the Bible. Many modern preachers seem to be wiser than the great Teacher. They think that the doctrine of retribution is not promotive of genuine piety, and for this reason drop it from their sermons, and then wonder why sinners are not converted, and comfort themselves with the declaration that "the times have changed and the age of revivals is past." Says Bishop Butler in his Analogy: "Veracity, justice, regard to God's authority, and our own chief interest, are coincident; and each separately, a just principle. To begin life from either of them, and persist, produces that very character which corresponds to our relations to God, and secures happiness."Repentance from the lowest motive leads to the higher and ultimately to the highest.
QUESTION: Are the phrases "original sin," "birth sin," "inbred sin" found in the Bible?
ANSWER: No. But a doctrine may be in the Bible while the term invented by men to express it is not scriptural, such as Trinity, sacrament, eucharist. Atonement is not found in the Revised New Testament. Theologians, feeling the need of a term to express racial bent or inclination towards sin inherited from Adam and Eve, called it original sin, using the term "sin" in an improper sense, because "sin properly so called," says J. Wesley, "is the willful transgression of a known law of God." Hence Arminians, whenever they use any one of these three phrases, are obligated to disclaim the elements of volition and guilt, which constitute the essence of sin. Much perplexity and many theological discussions would have been avoided if a different term had been invented to denote the racial trend towards sin. Paul used the terms "flesh" and "carnal" in 1 Cor. 3:1-3, and Gal. 5:17 in describing Christians in whom there was still lingering the proclivity to sin. But this word has about a half dozen meanings, mostly good, so that its use to denote badness is very confusing. Hence many speakers and writers decline to use the term so equivocal. The phrase "sin which dwelleth in me," occurs in Rom. 7:17 as descriptive, not of a regenerated person, but of a convicted moralist, personated by Paul, a character striving to realize his ideal of righteousness without faith in Jesus Christ. If real sin dwells in a man, he is not born of God, but is a child of the devil, according to 1 John 3:9, 10.
QUESTION: What is the meaning of "sanctified" and "holy" in 1 Cor. 7:14: "For the unbeliving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy"?
ANSWER: When either the wife or the husband becomes a Christian and the other party continues in the marriage relation, consenting to the religious change, he or she is measurably withdrawn from the contamination of heathenism and brought under the saving influence of Gospel truth and the Holy Spirit. This is the peculiar sense of "sanctified" and "holy" here used. The unconverted party is presumably on the road to salvation, and the children escape a pagan education and learn the way of salvation.
Perfect love constitutes evangelical perfection, the sum of all duties, the bond which binds all the virtues into unity.
As we stand midway between the perfect estate of paradise lost and of paradise regained, regretting the one and aspiring to the other, but excluded so long as we are in the flesh, our gracious God, through the mediation of Christ, commissions the Holy Ghost to come down and open the gates of a new paradise of love made perfect, love casting out all fear, love fully shed abroad in our hearts.
Love is the fulfilling of the law. To fulfil is perfectly to keep, not the old Adamic law, but the law of the new Adam, the Lord from heaven. "Fulfil ye the law of Christ, the royal law of liberty." This law is graciously adapted to our diminished moral capacity, dwarfed and crippled by original and actual sin.
All there is left of us after sin has spread its blight may be filled with the fullness of God. Every faculty may be energized, every capacity be filled, and every particle and fibre of the being be pervaded with the love of Christ, so that the totality of our nature may be subsidized in the delightful employment of love, attesting itself by obedience, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks. Says Wesley, "I know of no other Christian perfection."
The hypercritical may criticize the term, and say that perfection cannot be predicated of anything human, and some advocates of entire sanctification may unwisely substitute other terms supposed to be less offensive, such as "the higher life," "the rest of faith," and "full trust," and other words which man's wisdom teacheth, but it will be found that they all fail to convey the exact and definite idea of the word "perfection" which the Holy Ghost teacheth. This signifies not only our justification — sometimes called the imputation of Christ's righteousness, though improperly — but our inherent completeness in Christ, who is our sanctification as well as our righteousness or justification. The term perfection is the best word in the English language for expressing that state of spiritual wholeness into which the soul has entered, when the last inward foe is conquered, and the last distracting force is harmonized with the mighty love of Christ, and every crevice of the nature is filled with love, and every energy is employed in the delightful service of the adorable Saviour, and the soul is as "dead indeed unto sin" as the occupants of the Stone Chapel grave-yard are to the tide of Boston business and pleasure which rolls along Tremont Street.
However fractional the man may be in all other respects, he is in one sense an integer: love pervades the totality of his being. Early in divine revelation do we find Jehovah pointing to this state, saying to Abraham. "Walk before me, and be thou perfect;" and to Moses, "Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God." In many other places the same Hebrew word is used in describing character, but three times it is unfortunately translated by 'sincerely' or 'in sincerity', twelve times by 'upright' and 'uprightly', once by 'undefiled', as "Blessed are the undefiled [perfect] in the way," and once by 'sound' "Let my heart be sound [perfect] in thy statutes. Forty-five times the Israelites are commanded to bring sacrifices without blemish; and every time the word should have been translated perfect, God thus teaching by impressive symbols that the heart of the offerer must be perfect before God. Leviticus is the book of all the Old Testament wherein is typically taught the need of inward cleansing, whose end is holiness, whose tabernacle is holy, whose vessels are holy, whose offerings are most holy, whose priests are holy, and their garments are holy, and whose people are holy, because their God is holy. Opening the New Testament, we find the Greek word τέλειος, perfect, as descriptive of fitness for the kingdom of God, dropping from the lips of Christ and from the pen of St. Paul seventeen times, while the cognate noun perfection is twice used, and the verb to perfect fourteen times. This examination shows that the Spirit of inspiration had a deep design, persistently followed from the book of Genesis to the epistles of John. That design is to set forth the holiness of the service demanded of us, and the perfectibility of the Christian under the dispensation of the Spirit. For this perfection is not on a level with man's natural powers, but is the work of the Sanctifier through the mediation and blood of Jesus Christ, who "by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." By one offering he has procured the Sanctifier, who, so long as the world shall stand, is able by His office of cleansing to perfect believers, and present them complete in Christ Jesus.
It is easy now to see why perfection is both affirmed and denied in the Scriptures, with respect to the same individuals. God styles Job perfect, while Job himself repudiates that adjective. Compare chapter i. 1, with ix. 20. Thus David sees the "end of all perfection," and soon after calls on all men to "mark the perfect man," and note his peaceful death (Psa. cxix. 96; xxxvii, 37). St. Paul seems to blow hot and cold with the same breath, when he denies that he is perfect, and then assumes that he is (Phil. iii, 12-15); and St. James contradicts himself in the same way in chapter iii. 2. The explanation is easy. Legal perfection is disclaimed, while evangelical perfection is claimed. In other words, perfect love-service can be rendered; while perfect law-service is beyond the power of moral cripples to render.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ; according as He hath chosen us [believers] in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love."
— Ephesians i. 3, 4.
The doctrine of predestination always has reference to holiness. God, by an immutable decree, has made entire sanctification the goal attainable by all believers; from eternity He has determined that those who, by a free compliance with the conditions, are adopted into His family, "should be conformed to the image of His Son," not only in the distant future, but now, in the present life. "As He is, so are we in this world."
The broad line of demarcation between the children of God and the children of the devil lies in this one word, sin. "Whosoever has been born of God [and so continues] is not sinning, because His seed, the new principle of love, remaineth in him, and he is not able to be sinning, [as a habit,] because he has been born of God" [and so remains]. The significance of the Greek tenses is shown in the parenthetic words, the perfect tense denoting an act whose effect remains to the present time, and the present tense indicating an habitual or oft-recurring act.
A God-born soul is not in a sinning state, because he has admitted a new and dominant motive, antagonistic to sin, to take up its permanent abode behind his will. Its attitude cannot be hostile to the law so long as it is swayed by love to the lawgiver. He may in an unwary moment be surprised by some single act of sin, for which there is a merciful resort to the High-priest above. "If any man sin [aorist tense denoting a single act] we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the just." A perfectly holy soul, whether an angel in his first estate, or Adam in Eden, or a blood-washed believer, may fall away from his order by a decisive and permanent wrong choice, a choice which is the inexplicable mystery discussed for ages, the origin of sin. But John stoutly affirms that permanent sonship and continual sinning are contradictions which cannot be combined in one character. A man cannot be sober and drunken, honest and thieving, chaste and licentious, at the same time. But the temperate man may become an inebriate and die in the gutter; and the honest man become a thief and die in a prison.
How this stupendous perversion of the gospel of purity, that the sons of God are constantly sinning, became so widespread can be explained only on the theory that Satan himself has turned Bible expositor, teaching that "no man since the fall of Adam, even by the aid of divine grace, can perfectly keep God's law, but daily breaks it in thought, word, and deed." This fallacy of the Westminster Catechism still imposes upon intelligent minds, because they fail to see that the Adamic law has been replaced by the evangelical requirement of love as the fulfilling of the law. There is no sin where perfect love reigns. This may consist with innumerable defects, infirmities, and theoretical and practical errors. To a superficial observer these may look like sins, but a deeper inspection shows that they lack the essential characteristic, namely, the voluntary element. In ethics it is an axiomatic truth that volition is an attribute of sin as an act, or sin which entails guilt. Yet even involuntary deviations from rectitude need the atonement.
ANSWER: I think that a simple prescribed form of administering the two sacraments by insuring their dignified and orderly celebration promotes spirituality. But as synonymous with Tractarianism, which apes Romanism by an ornate and spectacular form, eucharistic vestments, and genuflextions to a crucifix, ritualism, by dazzling the senses, promotes æstheticism rather than spirituality.
When sin had discrowned Adam and his sons it was determined in the Council of the Trinity that a new and superior order should be constructed out of the ruined race. A second Adam appears on earth the first term of the glorious series, the new founder of the new order. He is the norm or model by which the new creation will proceed.
All those sons of fallen Adam who by faith yield to the transfiguring power assume the essential attributes of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. To adopt the phrase of modern philosophy, a new race is to be evolved. In all evolution there must first be involution. You must put into the first term all that you take out. Jesus Christ is the first term. "And it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell." "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
There is one word in the Greek Testament that exactly describes this relation of Jesus to the development of the sons of God. The term ἀρχηγός (archegos) is unfortunately translated by three different English words in the only four passages in which it occurs. It is compounded of two Greek words, signifying, beginning and leading. The best Saxon rendering is file-leader. Thus declares Peter in his crimination of the Jews: "And killed the file-leader of life, whom God hath raised from the dead" (Acts iii. 15). Again, before the Sanhedrim he utters these sublime words: "Him hath God exalted with (or at) His right hand to be a file-leader and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts v. 31). The office of Christ as the beginner of a glorious series is strikingly set forth in Heb. ii. 10: "For it became Him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the file-leader of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Here we see, not with the eye of a poet's fancy, but with the anointed vision of inspiration, Jesus Christ marching at the head of a long column, "many sons," leading them into the wide open portals of heaven, till they stand at last in the blaze of its innermost glory, a circle around the throne upon which He sits down. Again, in Heb. xii. 2, we have this fact as the ground of an earnest exhortation to Christian fidelity: "Looking unto Jesus, the file-leader and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was Set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God." We have in these four passages the divine conception of our adorable Saviour as the head of the new order, the sons of God, evolving these from the sons of the fallen Adam. "To as many as received Him." says the evangelist, "gave he privilege to become the sons of God."