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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Ebb and Flow of Christian Joy

Do not imagine that the sudden subsidence of ecstatic joy is the withdrawal of the abiding Comforter.

You retain him by faith and not by feeling. The highest Christian experience is subject to variations. Joy, like the tide, ebbs and flows. There are times when the soul, without effort, apprehends the love of God, and joy unspeakable fills, floods, and overwhelms it. Suddenly this bright manifestation is withdrawn, while no testimony of the Spirit is left behind against any act of ours as the cause. While there is no cloud nor doubt, there is no direct assurance. All is a waveless, breathless calm. Then is the time to walk by the lamp of faith, since the sunlight of the direct and joyful witness of God's love is withdrawn. Beware lest you admit the thought that the fullness of God has left you with the cessation of the exultant joy of the Holy Spirit. These alternations of feeling are doubtless regulated by hidden but benevolent laws. They may be requisite for the development of higher faith, when the soul, humbled and hungering, cries out,

"My heartstrings groan with deep complaint,
My flesh lies panting, Lord, for thee."

These inexplicable vacations of the manifestation of Divine love may be necessary for the more deliberate examination of our hearts. It is said that in the early days of railroading the careful engineer would occasionally stop his train in order to tap the wheels and test their soundness and safety. So God may at times interrupt the current of conscious love, to afford us an appropriate occasion for spiritual introspection. The man who walks by faith through these intervals will soon find even a clearer and more joyful out-beaming of the Saviour's countenance to reward his faithful clinging to the Divine promise.

— from Love Enthroned, Chapter 11.

The Law of Moses

QUESTION: (1) How much is included in what is termed the Law of Moses? (2) Is this the same as that referred to in the New Testament as "the Law"? (3) As Christians, what is our relation to the Mosaic Law?

ANSWER: (1) It is the legislative part of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It consisted of three portions, the Moral, the Ceremonial. And the Judicial. (2) The Moral embraces the Decalogue and certain ethical precepts such as relate to marriage, etc. This is binding on all Christians. The Ceremonial and the Judicial or civil law of the Hebrew nation are not binding on Christians. (3) When Paul says we are justified without the Law, he means we are not under obligation to plead that we have kept the moral law in order to be accepted. It is not the ground of our justification, but it is still the rule of life, and obedience to it is the fruit if faith in Jesus Christ. It will always be obligatory.

Steele's Answers pp. 80, 81.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Real Trust in Christ

There are many persons who seek the pardon of their sins who do not find that great blessing. There are various reasons; but the chief one lies in the fact that the unsuccessful seekers do not really trust in Jesus Christ. They are told to trust, and they try, and they think that they do, but they are mistaken. The truth is, that saving faith is possible only in a certain state of mind. There is a divinely prescribed and irreversible order of duties: first, repent; and secondly, believe. When a sinner feels that he is lost, and loathes his sins, he is more than half saved. Trust in Christ for forgiveness is possible only to one who realizes his utter helplessness.

Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1, Chapter 10.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christian Perfection is Not Adamic Perfection

QUESTION: Is Christian Perfection, as set forth by Wesley, Adamic?

ANSWER; No. It does not make us as perfect as Adam was before he sinned and impaired his own nature and that of all his descendants. Such diminished capacities and crippled powers as we have we are to consecrate fully to God, trusting in Jesus Christ. This gift of ourselves God accepts as a perfect offering and fills us with his love. Our perfect love responsive to his great love he accepts as the fulfillment of his law, through the merit of the atonement made by his adorable Son.

— from Steele's Answers pp. 96, 97.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are We Responsible for Original Sin?

QUESTION: Are we not responsible for inbred sin?

ANSWER: I cannot he responsible for any inborn quality. But when I find that there is a perfect cure in the blood of Christ and I prefer the disease to the cure, I become responsible for the continued existence of the inherited evil tendency. The whole Christian world from before the days of Jerome down to Wesley inclusive believed in the guilt of the original sin, that we all sinned in Adam and deserve punishment for Adam's sin and that we cannot plead an alibi, i.e., that we were elsewhere. This doctrine which has perplexed Christians and clouded the character of God 1,500 years, came from a mistranslation of Rom. 3:12, "in whom all have sinned," instead of "in that we all sin" (sooner or later), all except the Son of man. This mistake is, in the earliest Latin Version, and was copied by Jerome in the Vulgate, guilt of "original sin" became fixed in the theology of the church from which it descended into some reformed churches, especially those of the Calvinian type.

— from Steele's Answers pp 94, 95.


QUESTION: Explain Eph. 4:26, "Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath."

ANSWER: In the presence of wrongdoing, if we are Godlike, we must feel such displeasure as he feels (Rom. 1:18). Hence there is a sinless anger, an adverse emotion in view of any injustice or falsehood demanding the punishment of the wrongdoer in the interest of good order and righteousness, not of personal ill will. This feeling, though consistent with uninterrupted perfect love, has its perils, if it becomes chronic and settles into a grudge. The being angry without sin presupposes that the heart is not embittered, but remains appeasable. To secure this feeling let not the anger be carried over into the following day. Have a faith that leaves the matter with God, as Paul exhorts us in Rom. 12:19, for the first time correctly translated in the American Version, "Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me." The truth is that anger in human hearts is like a razor in the hands of a baby. The sooner it is handed over to the child's father the better for it. A negro woman complained to her pastor of the ill treatment she was suffering by her husband. When asked whether she had applied the Scriptural cure of heaping coals of fire on his head (Rom. 12:20), she replied, "No, but I have tried pouring hot water on him, but it made him all the worse." There is much good sense in Wesley's note: "If ye are angry, take heed ye sin not. Anger at sin is not evil; but we should feel only pity to the sinner. If we are angry at the person, as well as the fault, we sin. And how hardly do we avoid it!"

— from Steele's Answers pp. 95, 96.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saved Without Baptism?

QUESTION: How can the Friends or Quakers be saved when they do not believe in baptism?

ANSWER: It is not a saving ordinance, but a willful neglect of it indicates a spirit of disobedience which is a bar to salvation. But the Friends have no such disobedient spirit. Their difficulty is not in their hearts but in their heads. They believe in baptism, not water baptism, but that of the Holy Spirit, the reality of which water baptism is only a symbol. They say, "Why should I be concerned about the shadow while I have the substance?" Let us be charitable toward the mistake of the Christians.

— from Steele's Answers p. 94.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Mountain-top Saints

The faith which is the required condition of being lifted into the higher regions of Christian experience is possible only to a soul whose obedience has reached the point of entire surrender to the will of God, where there is a willingness to walk to Calvary with the fainting Christ, and to be crucified with Him. Then, and then only, will the Christ-life take the place of the old self-life, enabling the believer to adopt St. Paul's words: "I have been crucified with Christ; alive no longer am I, but alive is Christ within me." [Meyer]

Let no one accuse Luther of boasting, when through "the obedience of faith" he reached that deadness to sin, and that conscious fullness of the divine life, which enabled him to say: "If any man knocks at the door of my breast, and says, Who lives here? my answer is, Jesus Christ lives here, not Martin Luther." The great reformer did not stumble into this Christian experience. To reach it he was often closeted with God three hours a day, studying the divine promises, and wrestling with the Lord, as Jacob with the angel.

Says Spurgeon: "There is a point in grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling." Of such he says: "Their place is with the eagle in his eyrie, high aloft. They are rejoicing Christians, holy and devout men, doing service for the Master all over the world, and everywhere conquerors through Him that loved them."

The mountain-top is a position men do not slide into but climb up to. Thus these mountain-top saints climbed up the ascent by the stairway of the gospel promises, with the sunlit summit in full view as a definite aim.

Their faith made their obedience spontaneous, free, and gladsome; while their conscious obedience reacted on their faith, making it strong and tenacious of the promise of Jesus: "If ye love Me, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever."

"The perfect way is hard to flesh;
It is not hard to love;
If thou wert sick for want of God,
How swiftly wouldst thou move!

"Then keep thy conscience sensitive;
No inward token miss:
And go where grace entices thee: —

— edited and adapted from Mile-Stone Papers, Chapter 9.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Faith Includes Obedience

The fact that genuine faith always includes obedience is a sufficient answer to the sceptic's objection that salvation is made to hinge upon a bare intellectual act, without reference to the character of the agent. It is just the opposite. It is an act of submission to the highest authority in the universe — an act which tends to conserve its moral order, by enthroning the moral law in universal supremacy. A singular confirmation of the truth of these remarks is found in the Greek Testament, where ἀπείθεια, unbelief, is frequently used to signify disobedience and obstinacy. The unbelief for which men are to be everlastingly condemned lies in the rebellious attitude of the will toward Jesus Christ, and not in any supposed innocent intellectual inability to believe the truth of God's word.

— from Mile-Stone Papers, Chapter 9.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

On Galatians 5:17

QUESTION: Explain Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit (strives) against the flesh; for these are contrary one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would."

ANSWER: Flesh is used in a bad sense for evil inclinations. Hence the Holy Spirit after regeneration resists such evil tendencies which still cling to the newborn soul. This produces an inward conflict, the Spirit trying to keep the man from doing wrong and the flesh striving to hinder those Christian acts to which the Spirit prompts. The Revision eliminates the "cannot" which has no place in the Greek, for God's grace superabounds where sin has abounded. 

Steele's Answers p. 93. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

The First Throb of Spiritual Life

QUESTION: In Revelation 2:4, what is signified by first-love?

ANSWER: The love of God shed abroad in the heart when he first savingly trusts in Jesus. Christ, awakening responsive love which is the first throb of spiritual life, Strange indeed is the fact that backsliders generally deny and decry this experience as a mere spasm of excited sensibilities.

Steele's Answers p. 93. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Does God Foreknow Who Will Be Saved?

QUESTION: Does God foreknow who will be saved and who will be lost?

ANSWER: There are two answers, [1.] yes, but this foreknowledge in no way causes this ultimate fact. There is nothing causative in knowledge of things present, past or future. These divisions of time are an eternal now with God. The second answer is [2.] no; God knows only what is knowable. The non-existent is not knowable. The future free moral choices of men in probation are non-existent. This is the doctrine of the late Professor McCabe, who published a book on the Divine Nescience. Bishop Taylor and some others had the same opinion. It seems difficult to reconcile it with the prediction of future events which are decided by free agents. Moreover it greatly circumscribes omniscience and seemingly detracts from God's infinitude. For these reasons most theologians reject it, preferring the first answer.

Steele's Answers pp. 92, 93. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The more things change the more they stay the same. Astute readers will recognize the first of these answers as Molinism, and the second answer as Open Theism — still the alternatives in Arminian Christian theology to this day — though Open Theism has gained increasing support. It is interesting to me that Steele can cite, even in his day, supporters of the Open Theist view.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Where Did the Term "Original Sin" Originate?

QUESTION: When did the term "original sin" originate in Christian theology?

ANSWER: The doctrine of an inborn propensity to sin was taught by the New Testament writers, but the phrase "original sin" probably arose soon after Jerome, the author of the Vulgate version, erroneously translated Rom. 5:12, "in whom all men have sinned." This was quoted in proof that we all were present in Adam and were guilty of the sin we then committed and are consequently deserving of eternal punishment. The correct rendering is "death passed unto all men, for that all sin," sooner or later. That is the bent of fallen humanity. Original sin is now understood to mean that hereditary leaning toward moral evil which is removed by the completed work of the Holy Spirit in entire sanctification.

Steele's Answers pp. 91, 92. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Meaning of Mortify (Colossians 3:5)

"Mortify (νεκρώσατε aorist, kill outright), therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry...."(Colossians 3:5 KJV)

"Let nothing," says Bishop Ellicott, "live inimical to your true life, hidden in Christ. Kill at once (aorist) the organs and media of a merely earthly life."

Here, in the very strongest terms, is the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification as a distinct and instantaneous work of the Spirit clearly set forth. A young evangelist, holding meetings in a Baptist church, preached to pastor and people entire sanctification as immediately obtainable by faith. The pastor was stumbled by the English reading of this text, "Mortify;" that is, keep mortifying day by day. He thought that he must ever keep a little sin alive in his heart in order to be forever mortifying it. His mistake was (1) in overlooking the real meaning of Mortify, (νεκρόω) to make dead, and substituting the idea of repression: and (2) in disregarding the aorist tense of the command, enjoining a decisive and momentary act, to be done once for all.

— adapted from Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1 Chapter 8.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christian Brothers and Sisters

QUESTION: To whom should we apply the endearing term, brother or sister?

ANSWER: To the children of our earthly parents, and to all the sons and daughters of our heavenly Father in the New Testament sense, being born of the Spirit.

Steele's Answers p. 91.