Intro

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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Interpreting 1 Peter 5:10

[Let us now] examine one Scripture in which it is asserted that our evangelical perfection is in express terms deferred to some future time, namely, 1 Peter 5:10:

"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."

Some tell us that the adverbial clause, "after ye have suffered a while," modifies the following verb, "perfect." Let us read it this way, and we will find that the poor souls for whom Peter prays cannot claim to be "stablished" now, nor strengthened now, nor settled now; but they must be tossed about in weakness and instability till after they have "suffered awhile." This is certainly contrary to the uniform promise of God to help in time of need. We need the most help when we suffer. Then again, the soul deserted of God for a while is anxious to know the length of this indefinite "a while." How long a time must elapse before I can claim by faith the strengthening grace here supplicated? It is evident that the four verbs "perfect," "stablish," "strengthen," and "settle," are all in the same grammatical construction. If we must wait a while to be perfected, we must also wait in suffering to be strengthened.

But now suppose that, with the best biblical scholar of the century, Dean Alford, we attach the adverbial clause to the verb "hath called," what will be the rendering then?

"But the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory (heaven, not now, but) when ye have suffered a little while, himself perfect you (now, ) stablish," etc.

This rendering is simple and clear. It obviates all the difficulties of the other rendering, and makes God a present help in our extremity. The sufferings must be passed before the glory can be entered. They are the condition of the reward. This is all that St. Peter intended by the clause in dispute.

As God is ready to pardon now every sinner on the earth who comes in penitence and faith in Jesus, so is this Almighty Saviour able and willing, at the present moment, to cleanse and endow with the fullness of the Holy Spirit every believer who honors Christ by a trust in his promise of the abiding Comforter. So intense is his abhorrence of sin that he longs to wipe out the last spot that defiles humanity.

— from Love Enthroned, Chapter 4.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

John's Baptism

QUESTION: Was baptism by John the Baptist Christian baptism?

ANSWER: It was not. It was designed to combat the error that the performance of external ceremonies is all that is required to enter the kingdom of God. John insisted on repentance. Paul rebaptized, in the name of Jesus Christ, those whom John had baptized. (Acts 19:1-5.)

— from Steele's Answers p. 39.

The Theatre

QUESTION: Cannot the theater be made helpful to Christianity?

ANSWER: We are confronted not by a theory but by a condition. That condition always has been bad, and I fear always will be, despite the opinion of Dr. Sheldon, the author of "In His Steps." I have never found any of "His Steps" leading to the play house. Pollock thus sings in his "Course of Time":

"The theater was from the very first
The favorite haunt of sin; tho' honest men,
Some very honest, wise, and worthy men,
Maintained it might be turned to good account;
And so perhaps it might; but never was.
From first to last it was an evil place;
And now such things were acted there, as made
The devils blush; and from the neighborhood,
Angels and holy men trembling retired."

Nearly a century after these lines were penned Dr. C. H. Parkhurst, in denouncing "Parsifal," confirmed their truth: "A play is an acting lie and a speaking lie. There is no compatibility between a lie and Christianity." Make the theater decent and moral and "the Play will not pay for the candle." This was once tried in Boston in the Tremont Theater, and failed, and the Baptists bought the building, now Tremont Temple, in which the Gospel of Christ is now preached every
Lord's day. When the Christian is tempted to go to the theater let him ask himself this question, Will I be sowing to the flesh to reap corruption (eternal perdition) or to the Spirit to reap life eternal life? (Gal. 6:7.)

— from Steele's Answers pp. 38, 39.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments

QUESTION: State in a few words the difference between the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the New in the production of piety in the human heart.

ANSWER: He is the Author of all the piety from Adam to the convert of today. But since Pentecost he has had a perfect chest of tools to work with, all the facts of Christ's earthly history and all the truths deduced therefrom by the inspired apostles. The result is that of a joyful assurance of sonship to God has taken the place of the servile feeling, characteristic of the saints under the Law. This transition is described in Gal. 4:7. The distinguishing peculiarity of the New Testament salvation is the attestation by the Holy Spirit of the believers adoption into the family of God and of the entire sanctification of those who claim their full heritage in Christ.

— from Steele's Answers pp. 37, 38. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Entire Sanctification

"But may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit, soul and body, be preserved entire without blame, in the coming of the Lord Jesus." — 1 Thess. 5:23 (Ellicott's Translation).

So intent is the great Apostle on giving an adequate and explicit expression of his meaning, entire sanctification, that he uses a strong word found nowhere else in the New Testament — ὁλοτελής (holotelēs), wholly, rendered in the Vulgate per omnia — "in your collective powers and parts," marking more emphatically than any ordinary New Testament word the thoroughness and pervasive nature of the holiness prayed for. Luther has very happily translated it "durch und durch," through and through.

Then St. Paul has used another peculiar term, which is found in only one other place in the New Testament, in James 1:4, and gives it the position of an emphatic predicate: "May your spirit be preserved entire, your soul entire, and your body entire." He ordinarily employs the word τέλειος, "perfect," when he marks what has reached its proper end and maturity. But wishing to express a quantitative, and not qualitative, meaning, he employs a term signifying "entire in all its parts," "complete," lacking nothing.

Having in these strong and remarkable words indicated the thoroughness of the sanctification, Paul leaves us in no doubt as to the time, when he adds, "and preserve you without blame in the coming of the Lord Jesus." Through what period of time is the preservation to extend? Till the second advent of Christ. This period covers the lifetime of these Thessalonians, and the space between their death and resurrection. To say that the prayer refers to the latter period is to involve St. Paul in the papal heresy of praying for the dead. Therefore the preservation which is to follow the entire sanctification can refer only to the present life up to the hour of death. So plainly is this true, that no polemical writer has ventured to twist this passage into any other meaning.

The entire sanctification here supplicated is not only in this life, but the peculiar phraseology of the prayer implies that it is an instantaneous work. To the objection that the verb ἁγιάσαι, sanctify, can here only be understood of the gradual spread of the principle of holiness implanted in regeneration; even Olshausen insists that the emphasis laid on the "very God," or "the God of peace himself," "shows that something new is to follow," some vigorous interposition of the omnipotent arm of the Sanctifier. Besides this, the verb is in the aorist tense, denoting a single momentary act.

Before taking our leave of this wonderful Scripture we call attention to the fact, that it effectually refutes the Gnostic error respecting the inherent evil of matter. In the enumeration of the constituent elements of man which are to be sanctified wholly, and preserved each entire, we find "body," σωμα (soma), which is wholly material. St. Paul knew of nothing in man which was incapable of receiving the efficacy of the cleansing blood of Christ. And lest there should be any room for cavil, he specifies the ψυχη (phuxa), the lower or animal "soul," in which inhere those passions and desires possessed by man in common with the brutes. This border land between pure spirit on one side and gross matter on the other, lies open to the great Purifier as well as the higher element of spirit, πνεῦμα (pneuma), the designed receptacle or temple for the abode of God in man.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews the Apostle's closet door gets ajar again, and we hear these words breathed into the ear of God — so much like those just quoted as to indicate the same pleader: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do his will." This must be before death, for good works must be in time. To be perfect in them is to exclude every evil work, that is, all sin.

— edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 4.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Regeneration & Baptism with the Holy Spirit

QUESTION: G. Campbell Morgan teaches that "the baptism with the Spirit is always used in the New Testament with reference to regeneration and never with what is often spoken of to-day as the second blessing."  Is this correct?

ANSWER: It is not, because it necessarily implies that the apostles were not regenerated till Pentecost. Who can think that Christ is addressing persons strangers to the new birth when he said to the eleven apostles, "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence"? No one can read the high-priestly prayer of Christ in John 17th, in which his apostles are described as "Not of the world, even as I am not of this world," without believing that they had been regenerated? Then again the condition on which the Paraclete was to be received was this: "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter." This implies spiritual life already inspired at the first blessing preparatory to the second. It is surprising that a writer so strong and inspiring as Mr. Morgan, educated as a follower of Wesley, should fall into an error which implies that Jesus commissioned unregenerate men to preach his Gospel.

— From Steele's Answers pp. 36, 37.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On Sin in Believers

What is the difference then, between sin in a sinner, and sin in a believer? The same difference that there is between poison in a rattlesnake and the virus of that serpent injected into a healthy man. The venom is natural to the reptile. He delights in it, secretes and cherishes it with pleasure. But all the vital forces of the man resist the injected poison, and rally to thrust it out of the system.

We have shown elsewhere that the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans was not designed by St. Paul as an ideal of the regenerate life, even in its lowest stages. But so true is the doctrine of sin in believers — inbred sin — sometimes breaking out against the enfeebled will, that a whole section of the Christian world have mistaken the struggles of an awakened legalist seeking Justification by good works, and failing through the ascendancy of depraved inclination, for the portrait of the Christian in his best estate in this life. This photograph of a Christless, convicted Jew, has, alas! been set before myriads of Christians as the masterpiece of that Jesus who came to save his people from their sins, the best specimen of his art as a Divine limner even when aided by the great transformer, the Holy Spirit.

This class of Christians do not need arguments to convince them of the possible existence of sin in believers. It is difficult for them to believe that they may live on the earth after sin is all destroyed. Since nature abhors a vacuum in the spiritual as in the physical world, the complete and permanent annihilation of sin as a state of heart must be attended by the infusion of perfect love, by which we mean love in a degree commensurate with the utmost capacity of the soul. Hence the coup de grace, the deathblow which ends the war of love against sin, is a negative and limited work, to be followed by a work positive and unlimited. The first is the removal of all impurity, whether inherent or acquired; the second is being "filled with all the fullness of God." It is the adorning of the soul with all the fruit of the Spiritlove, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity, patience, and temperance.

— From Love Enthroned Chapter 3.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who Led Jesus Into Temptation?

QUESTION: In Matt. 4:1, what is the meaning of being led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil? Does it refer to the Spirit of God or the evil spirit?

ANSWER: To the Holy Spirit — in order that Jesus may pass through temptation and victory as the condition of spiritual greatness. Thus were tested Abraham and Moses and all the heroes of faith recorded in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, that Westminster Abbey of the Bible. Jesus never followed the devil as a leader.

— From Steele's Answers p. 36.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart?

QUESTION: In Exodus 9:16 is it true that God created Pharaoh, and hardened his heart for the purpose to show his power?

ANSWER: The Am. Revision is, ''For this cause have I made thee to stand," after, as the context shows, he had been "smitten with pestilence." There is no reference here to his birth. There are three forms in which the hardening of his heart is expressed. In verses 34, 35, Pharaoh "Hardened his heart" and "the heart of Pharaoh was hardened." This explains verse 12, "and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" as the result of his resistance to the Divine chastisements. In no other sense did God harden his heart than to let him rush forward in such a course of rebellion as issued in his hardening his own heart.

— From Steele's Answers pp. 35, 36.