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, December 8, 2014

Harmonizing Exodus 6:16-20 & 12:40

QUESTION: Harmonize Exodus 6:16-20 and 12:40.

ANSWER: There is no discrepancy, for the passages have not the same purpose. The latter text states the period of Israel's sojourn in Egypt beginning probably at Abraham's arrival in Haran a stranger. Israel was in Egypt alone but 250 years. Ex. 6:16-20, is a record only of the ages at death of Levi and his three sons, and is not chronological, because it does not give the age of the fathers at the birth of the son as in Gen. 11:10-27, where the period from Shem to Abraham is found by summing up all the generations from birth to birth.

Steele's Answers pp. 206.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Abomination of Desolation

QUESTION: What is "the abomination that maketh desolate?" Dan. 11:31.

ANSWER: Christ quotes these words in Matthew 24:15 as the signal to fiee unto the mountains. But in Luke 21:20 the Roman army encamped in sight of Jerusalem is the signal for the disciples to flee. Hence we infer that the abomination and detestable thing that spreads desolation is the Roman army, at the sight of which on the Mount of Olives before they had dug the trench around the city in A. D. 70, the Christians all made their escape to Pella in Gilead, not one being left behind to perish in the massacre or to glut the slave markets of the world.

Steele's Answers pp. 205.

Friday, December 5, 2014

About Labor Unions

QUESTION: Is it not right for a Christian to belong to a labor union in order to get employment? We are not yoked together, but have religious liberty. Does not Peter say, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man?"

ANSWER: There are labor unions which respect the rights of non-union men and work with them. To these a Christian can belong. But some unions prevent outsiders and call a strike to get rid of them if they are found working on the same job. This contradicts not only the golden rule, but also natural justice. As a Christian man I could not share in such iniquity by membership in such a union. The Scripture quoted is not relevant to this case, as you will see if you finish the quotation — "For the Lord's sake; whether to the King as supreme, or unto governors," i. e., to civil government, not to an irresponsible, voluntary association. From the fact that you can get employment only by joining the union I infer that it is a labor monopoly produced by crushing out every independent workman of the same craft whose conscience or self-respect will not let him become a monopolist. The Question Box has spoken the truth in love, and yet in sympathy with the Christian mechanic.

"Workmen of God! oh, lose not heart,
But learn what God is like;
And in the darkest battlefield
Thou shalt know where to strike."
— Faber.

Always strike at wrong, at whatever cost or loss of self, not at another workman because he doesn't wear your tag.

Steele's Answers pp. 204, 205.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How many Disciples Backslid?

QUESTION: How many of the eleven apostles backslid when Christ was crucified?

ANSWER: All had an eclipse of faith almost total, but only Peter needed to be re-converted. Luke 22:32.

Steele's Answers pp. 204.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Purification Prior to Pentecost?

QUESTION: Is not the participle "purifying" in Acts 15:9 in the Aorist? If so, should it not be translated "having purified?" If this be so, is it not an evidence that these people had been purified prior to Pentecost? And if this be so, then the Spirit was not given for purifying, but for witnessing God's acceptance of them. Isn't this Wesley's comment?

ANSWER: It is Aorist which, outside of the indicative and certain kinds of participles, is timeless and indicates a single completed act. Circumstantial Aorist participles denoting condition, concession, cause, or means, are always timeless. "Purifying," and "giving" in verse 8, denote means, thus: "And God bare them witness by giving (a single act, not a process) them the Holy Spirit * * * and he made no distinction between us and them by cleansing (a single act) their hearts by faith." See Goodwin's Greek Modes and Tenses, p. 49: "The Aorist Participle is sometimes joined with a verb of past time, to denote. that BY WHICH the action of the verb is performed, or that IN WHICH it consists: here it does not denote time past with reference to the leading verb, but rather coincides with it in time." Hence there is here no "evidence that they were purified prior to Pentecost." Wesley was too good a Greek lecturer in Oxford to make any such comment.

Steele's Answers pp. 203, 204.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

About Madam Guyon's Commentaries

QUESTION: What is known of Madam Guyon's commentaries on the Holy Scriptures?

ANSWER: She was highly imaginative and naturally began with Solomon's Song and the Apocalypse. Afterwards she wrote much on the other Books of the Bible under what she thought was inspiration. "Before I wrote," she says, "I knew nothing of what I was going to write, and after I had written, I remembered nothing of what I had penned." Her commentaries are of little value and are found only in antiquarian libraries. Through all her writings runs the capital mistake that God never does, never can, purify a soul but by inward and outward suffering. This led her into the Romish practice of bringing suffering upon herself by bodily austerities. But with this dross much pure gold was mixed.

Steele's Answers pp. 202, 203.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Is Spirit Baptism for Purity?

QUESTION: What right have we to teach that Spirit-baptism is for purity? Where in his Gospel did Jesus declare this?

ANSWER: I wish everybody who desires to have his New Testament illuminated with an arc light would study Bernard's Progress of Doctrine, in which it is shown that the great practical, experimental truths are left in the Gospel as tiny seeds to be fully developed. after Christ's ascension, such as the atonement, justification and sanctification, and the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. He said very little about the gift of the Holy Spirit as a Person till the day before his death when he confined his remarks to the positive works of the spirit, witnessing, teaching, illumining, strengthening, gladdening and giving to the believer a manifestation of his bodily absent Master. He omitted the negative and smallest part of his work in the heart, the subtraction of depravity. Sanctification is to the fruits of the Spirit what house-cleaning is to house-furnishing. It is requisite to comfort and health, but is by no means ornamental. Moreover, before Pentecost the best of the apostles were not prepared to receive this negative office of the Spirit. They were so saturated with ceremonialism that they deemed themselves holy if they observed the Levitical Code. The Spirit himself must create in their minds the idea of inward holiness as necessary to Christian discipleship. Before such preparation the prediction of the purifying work of the Spirit would have puzzled and perplexed the disciples. May not this have been one of "the many things" Jesus did not tell them because they were not able to bear them, but which the Paraclete would unfold to them? This he did chiefly through St. Paul. See Rom. 6:6, 18:22, I Cor. 1:30, II Cor. 7:1, Gal. 2:20 Am. R. V., 5:24, Zph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:9, I Thess. 5:23, 3:11.

Steele's Answers pp. 201, 202.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Were the Disciples Purified Before Pentecost?

QUESTION: Is not John 15:3 a proof that the disciples were completely purified before the day of Pentecost? If not, what is the true exegesis?

ANSWER: It is a pleasant play upon three Greek words, airei, cleanse, cathairoi, clean. Bishop Westcott, an eminent Greek scholar, says: "The spiritual work representing this "cleansing" was potentially completed for the apostles, the representatives of his church. It remained to be realized by them (compare Col. 8:8, 5). They were clean "because of the word." The word, the whole revelation to which Christ had given expression, was the spring and source, and not only the instrument, of their purity (it is "because" of (Revised Version), and not "through", John 6:57). He then cites John 8:81, 82, Eph. 5:26, James 1:18. In John 17:17 Christ thus prays, "Sanctify them in thy truth," a needless prayer, if they were already wholly sanctified. Let me illustrate this "cleansing potentially completed.," but as yet not "realized." A father presents to his son Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, saying, "Now, my son, you are made complete in the English language." The son says, "By diligence I hope to realize your design."

Steele's Answers pp. 200, 201.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Not All Professors are Possessors

QUESTION: If all sin is eradicated from the heart, what is the source of the impatience, harsh criticism, censoriousness, etc., that we see in those who are stoutly contending that they are sanctified wholly?

ANSWER: Not all is gold that glitters; not all professors are possessors. This is as true of justification as of sanctification.

Steele's Answers pp. 200.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Roman Catholic Scheme of Perfection

QUESTION: What is the Roman Catholic scheme of perfection?

ANSWER: By fulfilling "the three counsels of perfection," the vow of poverty, of obedience to the superior of the monastery or nunnery, and chastity. The priests promise only subordination to the hierarchy and celibacy — a far different thing from chastity. Neither the secular priests nor the laity can attain perfection, except by going through purgatory.

Steele's Answers pp. 199, 200.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Matthew 12:43-45

QUESTION: Explain Matt. 12:43-45, "But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of a man, passeth through waterless places seeking rest, and findeth it not." * * * "Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation."

ANSWER: The gross idolatry of Israel had been cast out through captivity in Babylon, so that they were "empty and swept" of that evil, but they had permitted a sevenfold greater to come in, namely, Pharisaism embracing self-righteousness and unbelief culminating in the rejection of their Messiah King and Savior. To show the enormity of these sins and their dreadful consequences he uses a parable suggested by his miracle just wrought by casting out a demon (verse 22). The whole description bears a parabolic impress, and the several features should not be overstrained or "made to go on all fours." The whole subject of demoniacal possessions is greatly alleviated by the idea that while Christ was on the earth the Almighty lengthened their tether, permitting them to take possession of some men in Judea, where a basement window was left open, so that Jesus by casting them out could demonstrate that demons were subject to him while angels ministered unto Him, thus showing his universal Lordship. This theory is sustained by the fact that demonical possessions did not often occur in the Old Testament nor to any great extent in the New Testament after the time of Christ. "Waterless" or desert, places are witnesses of the sin of mankind — a sticking proof of the  disappearance of Paradise. Hence deserts are suitable places for demons outside of hell. See Isa. 13:21, 22; 34:13-15, Rev 18:2. The number seven  denotes completeness. "Empty and swept" signify sloth; "the idle man's brain is the devil's workshop." "Garnished" — here the pure soul appears as the bride wooed by heaven and hell. The unclean man is fascinated by purity which he desires to defile. This passage of Scripture is full of deep moral truth, the most alarming of which is the possibility of a Christian's final and eternal apostasy. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

Steele's Answers pp. 198, 199.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Scriptural Proof that the Saved can be Lost

QUESTION: What do you regard as the strongest Scriptural proof that a person who has been truly converted may be finally and eternally lost?

ANSWER: The words of Christ in John 15:1, 6 can have no other meaning. A person who is "a branch in me" (Christ) may become fruitless and "withered" and "cast forth as a branch," and "gathered" and "cast into the fire," and "burned." If this figurative language is not a solemn, deliberate and graphic declaration of the possible perdition of a soul once regenerated and savingly united with Christ, then it is impossible to express this idea in human language. These words should lead every professor of Christ to ask himself daily, am I bringing forth such fruit as Jesus Christ is looking for, (1) the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and (2) the fruit of saved souls (John 4:36) "How a man can be 'in Christ,'" says Bishop Westcott, "and yet afterwards separate himself from him, is a mystery neither greater nor less than that involved in the fall of a creature created innocent." The scholarly bishop must have forgotten that the fall of a Christian under the assaults of the devil is less mysterious than the fall of the angels who fell without temptation.

Steele's Answers pp. 197, 198.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Can We Expect Revival?

QUESTION: Can the people of God expect a revival in a church filled with card players, dancing and whiskey drinking, by praying through, over or around these detestable abominations?

ANSWER: Yes; after a plenty of unsparing preaching in rebuke of sins dishonoring the holy Christ. Then let there be united and tremendous praying and believing. Read the article "The Heavens Opened," in the Methodist Review for March and April, 1907. It will tone up your faith.

Steele's Answers pp. 197.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why is Madame Guyon Called a Mystic?

QUESTION: For what reason is Madam Guyon styled "a mystic?"

ANSWER: The word signifies mysterious, hidden, incomprehensible. To a worldly person a spiritual experience of the witness of the Holy Spirit and of Communion with God is mystical. Most ardent piety breathes in the hymns and other writings of this good lady persecuted and imprisoned by a church so fallen that it could not appreciate the seraphic ardor of this woman. All true Christians are mystics. Only nominal Christians and worldlings dislike the term and try to cast reproach upon it.

Steele's Answers pp. 196.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christ Preaching to the Spirits in Prison (1 Peter 3:19)

QUESTION: Explain I Peter 3:19, Christ preaching to the spirits in prison.

ANSWER: We have several times answered this extendedly. We now only quote Wesley's Notes: "He preached through the ministry of Noah to unholy men before the fiood; who were then reserved by the justice of God as in a prison, till he executed the sentence upon them all; and are now also reserved to the judgment of the great day."

Steele's Answers pp. 196.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Liberty and Law

QUESTION: What is the relation of Liberty to Law?

ANSWER: Perfect obedience to Law is perfect freedom, because the consciousness of law is lost in love, which prompts us to do spontaneously and gladly all the loved Lawgiver requires. Duty is not seen because LOVE is written over it in so large letters. Whom the Son maketh free is free indeed. His yoke is easy. Love knows no burden.

Steele's Answers pp. 195, 196.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Those Professing a Third Blessing

QUESTION: What should be my attitude towards an apparently sincere company, very bitter towards the churches, though professing the third blessing attested by the gift of tongues?

ANSWER: We should cherish a kindly feeling of pity toward these misguided people, who answer well to our definition of fanatic. Since they claim plenary inspiration it will do no good to try to show them their error, but it may save others from being led astray by them, just as the Bremen may save the exposed houses, although they cannot save that one which the fire is rapidly consuming. By these remarks we do not assert that the charisms, or extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, are limited to the Apostolic age, but that the phenomenon of unintelligible]e words without an interpreter, so that no thouglit is expressed for anyone's benefit, is not now needed as a Christian evidence.

Steele's Answers pp. 195.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Did Wesley Mean by "Enthusiasm"?

QUESTION: What does Wesley mean when he thus cautions professors of Christian holiness, "Beware of that daughter of pride, enthusiasm." Is  not enthusiasm a good quality?

ANSWER: In  modern usage it has a good meaning, as it originally had among the Greeks. Take it to pieces and you will And it means en Theos, in God, denoting inspiration. But it soon began to take on the meaning of fanatic, in which sense Wesley used it. Isaac Taylor, in his Natural History of Enthusiasm, says: "A fanatic is an enthusiast transformed or developed. A typical enthusiast has a warm imagination and a sensitive heart with the malignant element still latent." He lives for only one object, and when opposed the evil is apt to become aroused; then he ceases to be an enthusiast and becomes a fanatic, wild, extravagant and unteachable in his religious opinions. He is infallible, being directly inspired by the Holy Ghost, as he imagines. He thinks every thought is from God and that he has no need of the Bible. "Why do I need a guide-board," I heard a fanatic say in a pulpit, "when I have the Guide?" Another boasted that he had not looked in the Bible during a month. The devil easily trips such people up by injecting temptations to evil acts which, not being tested by the Scriptures, are supposed to be right because inspired by God. This is the road to ruin, trodden by many who were once earnest Christians. Wesley cut off sixty fanatics from his Foundry Society in one day. They called him "poor blind John." Beware of fanaticism, the devil's trap for those whom he can catch in no other way.

Steele's Answers pp. 194, 195.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Will There Be Degrees of Happiness in Heaven?

QUESTION: Does the Bible teach that there will be degrees of happiness in heaven?

ANSWER: Every one will have as much happiness as he can hold, but a thimble full is not quite equal to a hogshead full. The penitent thief may be the thimble and St. John may be the hogshead.

Steele's Answers pp. 193, 194.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Editor's Note: About This Blog

Just lately I've been too busy to post anything at this blog. But, I thought I would take a moment to say a little about it and about its future.

Several years ago I acquired a copy of the old book Steele's Answers. I wanted to scan it and include it with the other Steele books I had put up on the web. For a long time, I couldn't figure out how best to do that. The book has no chapters, only short questions & answers. It didn't fit with what I had been doing up to that point. Finally it occurred to me that the short entries in the book lent themselves to the blog format. So I started to scan it (without having previously read it) and posted the entries in the order in which they appeared. In doing this I discovered that the book really isn't very good — though it is a good reflection of its times. So, I started posting entries drawn from Dr. Steele's other writings — and a few things from other holiness writers.

I have been posting the questions and answers in the order in which they appear in the book.

I would say I'm through about 3/4 of the book at this point, so the Steele's Answers blog will continue into 2015 at least. In the mean time, I also started a blog drawn from the writings of Thomas C. Upham.

You might wonder: why do I find these writers interesting, when I don't always agree with them?

My Christian conversion experience was in the context of a holiness camp meeting. I am abidingly thankful for the message I encountered there — but for a long time the "entire sanctification" aspect of their teaching was a conundrum to me. I couldn't seem to experience or understand it. In seminary I sought out some classic holiness writings to try to comprehend this teaching. The writings of Daniel Steele were some of the most helpful I found. I have now come to feel that he is probably the one writer that best captures the Wesleyan holiness movement in its 19th century form. And, I think there are worthwhile insights in his writings.

My intention is to post all of the questions and answers in the book. And, this project will continue when I have some more time to devote to it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Danger of a Light Estimate of Sin

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16:7-11 ASV.

A light estimate of sin is the bane of modern Christian thought. It is attended by a depreciation of the moral law. Since the law underlies the atonement, whatever lessens the majesty of the law detracts from the necessity and value of the atonement. Thus these fundamentals all suffer loss when one of them, sin, law, atonement, is discounted. To these three vital doctrines we may add the pardon of sin and sanctification, together with eternal retribution. When one of these doctrines is undervalued, all are soon weakened. Says Principal Moule:

A full, strong current of opinion in the professing Church of Christ runs at the present day directly against a grave, thoroughgoing doctrine of sin and its correlative truths of eternal judgment and of the unspeakable need of the atoning blood and of a living personal faith in the crucified and risen One. One would think that some earnest teachers had learned, by some other path surely than that of the Word of God, to look with temperate eyes upon sin as a phenomenon sure at last to disappear under long processes of divine order.

The final evanescence of moral evil is a pleasing delusion of liberalism which cannot endure the idea of sin as an eternal blot on the face of the universe. A careful study of the parables of Christ shows the human family in the day of judgment separated and sentenced to the opposite destinies of punishment and reward with no hint of an ultimate reunion. Moral evil as a finalty under the government of omnipotent goodness is a problem of less difficulty than the permission of sin by absolute holiness. The argument which justifies the arbitrary non-prevention of sin will justify its sovereign non-extinction. But we need no such argument. God has only one way for the extinction of sin, the blood of His Son presented by penitent faith. He will never crush sin with an almighty trip hammer, as Universalists desire; nor will He crush the sinner into nonentity to suit annihilationism. Hence final impenitence can have no other sequence than everlasting misery. Without any revelation Plato comes to this conclusion. His moral reason demanded it. Hence it is not unreasonable.

What is the remedy for inadequate and superficial views of sin as a transient, cutaneous disease soon to be outgrown by the soul? Preach earnestly and persistently the office of the Paraclete as the convincer of the stupendous sin of unbelief toward Christ, of righteousness and of judgment to come. Liberalism can be cured only by the awakening truths of Christ's gospel. No office of the Comforter can be neglected without moral disaster, which always overtakes those who advance beyond the New Testament in their fancied progress. "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath not God" (II John 9, Revised Version).

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Conviction for Inward Sin

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16:7-11 ASV.

The Spirit not only convicts unbelievers of willful sin, but He also convicts the regenerate of "sin improperly so called" (Wesley), a wrong state of the sensibilities lying back of the will. Even after the will has, through the new birth, been brought into an attitude of submission to Christ, there remain tendencies and propensities perilous to the spiritual life and antagonistic to the new principle of love to God which is now enthroned within. This rendered many of the Corinthians "carnal," so that Paul hesitated to call them "spiritual," though they were, "as babes in Christ," possessing a feeble spiritual life instead of that more abundant life which Christ came to impart. This lingering carnality, "the easily besetting" or closely clinging sin, styled by Delitzsch "the indwelling evil," was the force which was impelling many of the Galatians downward instead of upward; for having begun in the Spirit, they were ending in the flesh. We must ascribe to the same cause that lack of perfect loyalty and perfect devotion to Christ in all of Paul's band of missionary helpers in Rome, Timothy excepted, of whom the sorrowful apostle says, "For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ." By such a remark as this the apostle to the Gentiles does not de-Christianize those members of Christ's body who are still actuated by selfishness. Rather he represents them as weak and defective believers who have not yet submitted to a total self-crucifixion as a prerequisite to perfect love to Christ. Paul does not include himself and Timothy in this class (Phil. ii. 19-21).

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Salvation by Faith in Christ

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16:7-11 ASV.

Another truth implied in the Spirit's conviction of the world is that present salvation and eternal life depend solely on faith in Christ for which there can be no substitute. By this declaration the pious, God-fearing pagan living up to his best light is not excluded from salvation. He evinces that he has the spirit of faith and the purpose of righteousness which are accepted in the involuntary absence of a knowledge of the historic Christ. He has engraven on his own character, through co-operation with the universal activity of the Holy Spirit, the imperfect outlines of the image of Christ, styled by Joseph Cook "the essential Christ." When the apostles demonstrated to the conscience of the Jews that there was salvation in no other name, not even in Abraham their father nor in Moses their lawgiver, they were convicted of the most stupendous crime possible, but not beyond the forgiving grace of their disowned and crucified Messiah. Great as was their first crime of murdering their King, their second offense of rejecting His claims did not place them individually beyond His pardoning mercy, if they would repent and believe, although it sealed their national doom. Their unbelief vitiated all their fancied righteousness sought from the law and rendered it detestable and all their sacrifices abominable to the searcher of hearts. They were preeminently guilty of unbelief. The temporal consequences to their nation manifestly confirm the assertion that it was the most heinous of all sins.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Holy Spirit as Convictor of Sin

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16: 7-11 ASV.

"And he, when he is come, will convict the world of sin."

Of what form of sin? Not of those social offenses called crimes, violations of the precepts and prohibitions of the Decalogue, the basis of the criminal code in all civilized countries. Human courts are competent to convict of crime. Nor does the Spirit convict of those injuries to ourselves known as vices, moral delinquencies not named in the Ten commandments. Conscience is sufficient to convict of these, aided by self-love and self-respect. But human law and conscience combined cannot eradicate evil from the heart. Philosophy has tried it and failed. Poetry, especially comedy and satire, have ineffectually attempted to convict the world of sin in all past ages. They have chastised cutaneous sins, denouncing the drunkard, the glutton, the opium user, the fornicator. All these were self-condemned before the shaft of ridicule was hurled at them. Each of them could say:

"I see the right, and I approve it too;
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue."

But is not God's law thundering from Sinai a sufficient witness to convict of sin? No, it never did convince the world that sin is evil per se, a thing to be abominated, to be abhorred and shunned because of its inherent hatefulness and unspeakable vileness. The divine law is effectual only as it causes sin to be dreaded and avoided merely because of the punishment which will surely visit it.

There is needed more than an accuser and punisher of sin, a power which can not only probe and search the heart and turn it inside out, exposing to the sunlight all its loathsome leprosies, but a power which can effect a radical cure. The sinful heart needs a surgeon so sharp-sighted as to detect this deadly disease under all its disguises of euphonious names, and a physician so skillful as to apply an effectual remedy.

That healer of the sinful soul is the divine Comforter, mercifully sent, not to torment the world by forbidding its pleasures, but to bless the world by turning it away from its iniquities. Sins of every kind are the fruit of an invisible root to which they bear no outward resemblance. This root is too subtile for human laws and courts to see. It requires anointed eyes. No human philosophy had ever found the sum and substance, the poisonous essence of sin, in unbelief.

How can this be the all-inclusive sin? Is not historic doubt respecting persons and events innocent and even commendable? To such questions of a shallow rationalism we answer that unbelief in respect to Christ is more than withholding intellectual assent to a historic record. It is ingratitude towards a Benefactor and Saviour, and rebellion against a rightful Ruler, a refusal to bow the knee to the personal revelation of God. The cause of this unbelief is not intellectual, arising from a lack of evidences, but moral, arising from a lack of willingness. Christ is rejected because He lays the axe at the root sin, plants a hedge of thorns across the path of sinful pleasure, and kindles a consuming flame in the house of the worldling's idols. The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of a lie when they pretend that their unbelief toward Christ is merely honest doubt. It is because faith in Him draws after it what is conceived to be the unpleasant obligation to obey Him, that they are unbelieving. In fact, the Greek Testament has but one word for unbelief and disobedience. In truth and verity, however boldly and persistently the world may deny it, the fact is that unbelief in respect to Christ lies in the will so corrupt that it hugs sin and will not let it be taken away by the Son of God, who came into the world and submitted to the shame and agony of the cross for this very purpose.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Reciprocal Indwelling

"And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." — 1 John 3:24 (KJV) 

This reciprocal indwelling is a double wonder. If the indwelling of Christ by his representative, the Holy Spirit, is a mystery, the indwelling of the believer's soul in Christ is to one who has no experience a mystery of mysteries beyond reason, and beyond such natural faith as is possible to the unregenerate, except on the theory of pantheism. This theory exaggerates God's omnipresence. It makes him everything as well as everywhere; as a soul in man, in nature, in the universe, just as life is in animal bodies. This soul has self-consciousness only in man. Man's individuality is a brief illusion, as a bubble momentarily floating on a river, then losing its form in the current which bears it onward to the ocean. There is in pantheism no such thing as personality in man or in God. It denies freedom in both. This implies that neither God nor man has a moral character or a moral sense. God is a blind, non-descript force acting through material organisms. Neither sin nor holiness has any place in this philosophy. There are two objections: first, the testimony of consciousness to freedom and moral accountability; and second, the Bible idea of God as a perfect personality, having intelligence, feeling, will, and moral freedom. We now have a basis for stating the doctrine of the indwelling of God in the believer and the indwelling of the believer in God. Both personalities are retained, but mentally interpenetrated. The Spirit does not take forcible possession of the body and mind, as evil spirits do in the case of demoniacs, dervishes, and devotees of Hinduism, but he gently enlightens, purifies, and guides the trusting and renovated soul, and through it he controls the body. As a Person the Spirit has an intelligent and definite aim, which is to produce and conserve holiness in the believer. Such a person dwells ill Christ because he is ensphered in his mighty personality, and encompassed by his love: —

"Plunged in the Godhead's deepest sea,
And lost in its immensity."

The reciprocal indwelling is the strongest possible expression for the union of God and the believer. The relation so intimate is indescribably blissful. It begirds weakness with omnipotence. It banishes fear. It arches the future with the rainbow of hope.

"And when I'm to die,
'Receive me,' I'll cry,
For Jesus hath loved me,
I cannot tell why.
"But this I do find,
We two are so joined,
He'll not live in glory
And leave me behind."

What a sense of security one has who carries God in his bosom and at the same time is consciously dwelling in the Gibraltar of God's overshadowing presence, power, and love. Such a man is gloriously delivered from fear and doubt. He has the full assurance of faith, and the victory over the world which comes through faith.

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Habitation of the Human Spirit by the Holy Spirit

Professor Austin Phelps remarks that next to the mystery of the Three Persons in the one divine nature is the habitation of the human spirit by the Holy Spirit interpenetrating its substance with his vitalizing presence, pervading all the faculties of the human mind, becoming the life of its life, the soul within a soul, in a sense to which no other union makes any approximation. "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit" (1 Cor. vi. 17). This mystical union is symbolized by the human body united with the head, the branches and the vine, the union of husband and wife, the dependence of the temple on its corner-stone. Paul has a union with Christ by the Holy Spirit so intimate that he speaks of his own heart throbbing in the bosom of Jesus Christ: "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ" (Phil. i. 8). It has been said that such is the Spirit's efficacy that there is not one thought, feeling, or emotion pervading the man Jesus Christ, amid the glories of the upper Sanctuary, but may be said to be reproduced in the experience of his people on the earth, so that their every want and sorrow vibrates to him like the touching of a chord of which he is instantly aware. This telegraphic connection is implied in the joy of the angels over one penitent sinner, a ripple wave of gladness rolling over all the heavenly hosts. This communion of feeling is because the Holy Spirit who dwells in Christ dwells also in his people.

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Differences in the Way the Spirit Comes

There is a difference in the way of the Spirit's coming in his fullness. The day of Pentecost is not to be taken as an exact model; certainly it is not in the supernatural concomitants, such as the sound as of a cyclone, the tongues of fire, and "the miracle of ears," rather than tongues, every man of sixteen nationalities hearing in his own language "the wonderful works of God."

It was proper that the advent of the promised Paraclete should be signalized by extraordinary and impressive phenomena. This is usual at new beginnings as at the giving of the Law on Sinai. In a lower degree, something of the same kind is noted in the great outpouring of the Spirit in missions, such as have graciously favored some of the Baptist and Methodist missions in India in recent years, and in revivals at home, sweeping over the country like a tidal wave. In these times of refreshing, Christian men are suddenly, mightily, manifestly, filled with the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, and unbelievers are deluged with his power in conviction of sin.

It is natural for us to fail into the mistake of inferring that the incoming of the Spirit to take up his permanent abode in the inmost life of the believer, must be attended by the enthusiasm and overflowing gladness of Pentecost. The Spirit is not limited to one method of manifestation. He may accentuate love or peace, or some fruit other than joy, which is the most emotional of them all. For this reason there are special dangers to be guarded against.

The blessing is often too much dependent on the concourse of many believers of like experience, or it is superficial and extends only to the emotions, the outermost and more accessible currents of the Soul's life. This we may call ecstatic fullness. The seat of character, the will in its deepest root, has not been completely subdued, and the inmost life has not been transformed. This is seen in the vacuity, the dissatisfaction which follows a change in externals, an abatement of the excitement of a jubilant crowd, and a removal from the contagious gladness of other Christians. Then we find out whether we ourselves have been baptized with fire, or whether we have been warmed by other people's fires.

Moreover, it must have been noted by careful observers that there are Christians of the type of Barnabas, "a son of Consolation, a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost." These never speak of a cyclonic experience, a marked and memorable event sharply defined in memory. Yet the fullness of the Spirit manifests itself in deep and intense devotion to Christ; in a life of constant obedience and complete victory over sin; in a walk in the light of God's countenance; in a simple trust and uninterrupted and cloudless communion with the Father and the Son; and in the humility of a self-effacing love to all whom they can reach with their good deeds and prayers, whether friends or foes. We observe that such souls do not recur to dates, to sudden and memorable transitions and spiritual uplifts. Like Lydia, their hearts seem to have been gently opened to regenerating grace, and the Paraclete without observation has noiselessly gone from apartment to apartment till he has taken complete possession. This we may call ethical fullness. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled."

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Witnesses to the Indwelling Spirit

In all the Christian ages there have been witnesses to the conscious indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These have been few and discredited in eras of rationalism, and stigmatized as mystics and fanatics in periods of formalism; but they have been numerous and received with credence in the most spiritual eras and sections of the Church. Their testimony is confirmed by their deadness to sin and self and fullness of joy. "It happens sometimes that the indwelling of Christ and God and his Spirit signalizes itself with such energy in the believer, that the human individual life is overflowed and swallowed up by the divine, as a river of delight" (Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology, p. 418). Delitzsch quotes the case of the "holy Ephrem who experienced such wondrous consolation that he often cried, 'Lord withdraw thy hand a little, for my heart is too weak to receive such excessive joy.'" John Fletcher at times offered a similar prayer. There are now on the earth witnesses to the conscious indwelling of the Holy Ghost in larger numbers probably than ever before. I know a man in Christ twenty-eight years ago — in the body, or out of the body, no matter which — into whose consciousness the Comforter came and took up his permanent abode, in a day and hour never to be forgotten either in this world or in that to come. Invisible himself he glorified Christ whom he revealed within as a bright reality, as he did in Paul, when God revealed his Son in him.

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Were the Wesleys Freemasons?

QUESTION: We recently heard a Methodist preacher say that John and Charles Wesley were Freemasons. Is there any foundation to this statement?

ANSWER: This is news to me. I have been reading about the Wesleys all my days, especially in Tyerman's three big volumes on John Wesley, and I have not found it. He evidently put on record everything he could find.

Steele's Answers p. 193.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Third Blessing?

QUESTION: Is there a third, distinctive blessing after entire sanctification called the baptism of the Spirit, the disciples having been entirely sanctified before Pentecost?

ANSWER: I find no proof of a distinct work of purifying before Pentecost at which time Peter testifies "their hearts were purified by faith" (Acts 15:9). There were many refreshings and begirdings of the Spirit subsequently, and there are experiences of sudden and great spiritual enlargement, but these are rare, and exceptional in preparation for some special work.

Steele's Answers p. 193.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Did God Create Evil?

QUESTION: If sin originated in heaven, did not God create it?

ANSWER: Sin is not a substance, but the bad quality of a free act in violation of known law. If a son disobeys a good father to his great grief, is it the father's sin? He could have avoided that sin in only one way, by avoiding fatherhood. God could have avoided the incoming of sin by refraining from creating any free moral agents who are first causes of their own moral acts and hence responsible and punishable.

Steele's Answers pp. 192, 193.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

On 1 Corinthians 7:14

QUESTION: Explain I Cor. 7:14, "For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified in the wife and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified in the husband; else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."

ANSWER: It is not personal, internal sanctification, but dedication. In heathenism children from their conception were dedicated to idols and demons, at least seven. If one parent becomes a believer and the other consents to this change of religion, the supposition is that the newly born child is now, through the influence of the Christian partner, dedicated to God, and the consenting pagan parent has, to a certain extent, yielded to Christian influences. In India, he or she breaks caste by so doing, and is no longer regarded as a heathen. Such are now withdrawn from the pollutions of idolatry and are on the way to personal salvation. In this text "sanctify" is used in a peculiar sense.

Steele's Answers p. 192.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Job's Restoration

QUESTION: After the Lord turned the captivity of Job we find all his servants, all his cattle, all his children are alive and that, through the care of his herdsmen, his stock of domestic animals was doubled. My theory is that the messengers who brought evil reports to Job were all liars inspired by Satan. Is not this true?

ANSWER: It is true that Satan is a liar, but this does not account for Job's boils; they were real. His losses were real also, for the possessions and the living children could not have been concealed from him during the long period of his trial. His subsequent wealth and second crop of children in his old age, like Abraham's second family, were preternatural, if not supernatural.

Steele's Answers pp. 191, 192.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Was Judas Always a Devil?

QUESTION: Our minister thinks that Judas was always a devil. Is this true?

ANSWER: This theory implies the following difficulties: That Christ knowingly chose a devil, thus setting an example to his church to license bad men to preach; that Christ commissioned a devil to work miracles, even to raise the dead and to cast out devils, thus justifying the charge of his enemies that he cast out devils through a devil (Matt. 10:2-9). We should note that Jesus, speaking three years after the call of Judas, did not say he was a devil from the beginning, but is a devil now. A good man may backslide very far in three years. There was evidently a growth in badness in John 6:70, where he intimates that Judas is under the influence of the devil, just as he means that Peter is influenced by Satan when he calls him Satan (Matt. 16; 23). The growth of the spirit of greed six months afterwards reached its climax, in John 13:26, 27.

Steele's Answers pp. 190, 191.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Marrying Unbelievers

QUESTION: (1) Has a Christian a right to marry a sinners (2) Has a minister a right to celebrate such a marriage?

ANSWER: There is no human law against it, nor any prohibition in the Decalogue, but an inspired apostle forbids it, "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers" (II Cor. 6:14-17). "The apostle," says Wesley, "speaks especially of marriage and gives three arguments against it in the context." Many a Christian has made a shipwreck by violating this prohibition, thinking that conversion would be effected by home missionary work. But instead of that the unbelieving husband often perverts the Christian wife by urging her to go with him to the theater, the dance, the card party, and the Sunday excursion. (2) We have always admired the refusal of Spurgeon to celebrate the marriage of any member of his church with an unbeliever, though I have not always followed his example. He illustrates the delusion of the expectation of conversion after marriage on this wise: "It is like one standing on a table trying to lift them up to his level. The one below will almost certainly pull the other down." History proves this. Professedly Christian parents, who prefer for their daughter a rich sinner to a poor saint will have much to answer for in the day of judgment, and. often in this life sorrows follow such a marriage in the shape of divorce, or wicked, sons-in-law or ungodly grandchildren.

Steele's Answers pp. 189, 190.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Was Jesus Glorified?

QUESTION: When was Jesus glorified?

ANSWER: To glorify God or Christ is to make him known and acknowledged as being all that he claims to be. Christ is spoken of several times as being glorified (John 12:28; 13:31; 17:10); but in his prayer in John 17:1 he still prays for glorification. We infer that his body was not changed by his resurrection, it still being flesh and bones. (Luke 24:39). This glorification occurred after leaving the earth. It was too dazzling for mortals to see; it almost killed Saul of Tarsus and John (Acts 9:4; Rev. 1:17).

Steele's Answers p. 189.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Christ Breathes the Spirit (John 20:22)

QUESTION: When Christ breathed on his disciples in John 20:22, in what capacity did they receive the Holy Spirit?

ANSWER: It is worthy of note that the same Greek word is here used as that in Gen. 2:7, to express the inspiration of the new, spiritual life of recreated humanity By "breathing," as Augustine observes, "Jesus shewed that the Spirit was not the Spirit of the Father only, but also his own," and as it is without the Greek article, it is a gift of the Spirit rather than the Person of the Spirit. This gift of spiritual life was necessary to their reception of the Personal Spirit at Pentecost. A dead soul can be inspired with life, but cannot actively receive the Personal Spirit in all his offices, especially that of entire sanctification.

Steele's Answers pp. 188, 189.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sanctification & the Lodge

QUESTION: Can a sanctified person retain the experience and carry insurance in a fraternal order, although he never attends the lodge or takes any part in the proceedings?

ANSWER: I infer that the new experience is subsequent to joining the order, which he has found not promotive of his spiritual life, and for this reason abstains from its meetings, but continues to pay the dues, because of the loss of money already paid for insurance should he now cease. Knowing, not from experience, but from observation, that membership in such orders is not helpful to the spiritual life, I would suggest to this brother that no financial loss, however great, can outweigh any spiritual loss, however small. Always give the spiritual and not the material side the benefit of your doubt.

Steele's Answers p. 188.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Are the 10 Commandments Still in Force?

QUESTION: Our holiness preacher says the Decalogue is not in force now, having been nailed to the cross and is not binding now. Is this so?

ANSWER: Paul, in Col. 2:14, is speaking of "forgiveness of trespasses." Christ's atoning death affords a new ground of our acceptance with God instead of the plea that we have perfectly kept his law, which condemns us all, for we have all sinned, and therefore are excluded from legal justification. But evangelical justification is now possible, because God through Christ has taken away the law as the ground of justification, but not as THE RULE OF LIFE. This is what Paul means when he says, "We are not under the law but under grace." Some have done much harm by teaching that believers are not under obligations to keep the moral law. They are called Antinomians. See the book entitled, "A Substitute for Holiness," published by the Christian Witness Co., for an extended answer to this pernicious error.

Steele's Answers pp. 187, 188.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Five Foolish Virgins

QUESTION: Were the five foolish virgins regenerated?

ANSWER: Yes; they were all companions of the Bride, all had brightly burning lamps or torches, all up to a certain time were fully prepared to meet the Bridegroom. The moral of the parable is the blessedness of endurance unto the end through the faith which secures and preserves the fullness of the Holy Spirit of whom olive oil is the emblem (Zech. 4:3-14, I John 2:20, 27), and the sad failure of some to secure a full preparation for the future exigencies of the spiritual life. See Matt. 13:3-7.

Steele's Answers p. 187.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Restoration of Backsliders

QUESTION: How is it possible for one who has been saved and fallen into sin to come back to God in the face of Ezek. 33:18, where it says, "but in his iniquity that he hath committed therein shall he die"?

ANSWER:  The querist misinterprets this passage, which means, not that there is no possible salvation for a backslider, but that he must die in his iniquity, if he trusts in his  former  righteousness with no repentance and faith in God's mercy as emphatically expressed in verse 11, "As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, for why will ye die, O house of Israel." This tender and urgent entreaty includes apostates, as in Hos. 14:4, Isaiah 30:9 compared with ver. 15, "In returning and rest shall ye be saved." Mal. 8:7, "Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts," Luke 22:21, 32, "When thou art converted (restored) strengthen thy brethren." The prodigal son was a backslider whose return was received with gladness, robe, ring, shoes and a real dinner.

Steele's Answers pp. 186, 187.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Is a "New Birth" Expereince Necessary?

QUESTION: When a little child is baptized and trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and being morally correct is received into the church without realizing any change of heart, is he to be considered as a Bible Christian?

ANSWER: No; but he is on a good vantage ground for becoming such, if he does not rest satisfied with nominal Christianity, and is earnestly seeking the new birth. Unless he does this his church membership is an opiate inducing a fatal spiritual stupor. It is also a shield against the arrow of awakening Gospel appeals. It is perilous to trust in morality, creeds, and sacraments, to live and die destitute of spiritual life, which only he has "who hath the Son."

Steele's Answers pp. 185, 186.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"I Never Knew You"

QUESTION: Explain Matt. 7:28, "Then will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'" Show (1) the meaning of "knew," and (2) the ground of Christ's condemnation of these Christian laborers.

ANSWER: He did not recognize them as worthy of intimacy and complacent love, nor did he own them as friends. (2) They had used his name not to promote his glory, but for their own selfish ends, money, honor, power, or social prominence. It is an enormous sin for an unconverted or blackslidden preacher to pervert to ambitious purposes that precious name which suggests amazing self-sacrifice, and in his personal character to misrepresent to the world the sinless Son of Man, the model by which we may become sons of God. This helps us understand why unbelief is the root and sum of all sins.

Steele's Answers p. 185.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Who Is a Heretic?

QUESTION: Explain Titus 3:10, "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition reject."

ANSWER: Read the American Standard Bible for the meaning of "heretic," a word which is found nowhere else in the Bible, "A factious man... reject." It refers to the man who obstinately persists in contending about non-essentials, and thus destroys the peace of the church by promoting cliques and animosities. He is generally eager to obtain prominence in God's flock, for he wishes to be "either the bellwether or no sheep." The word "reject" might have been more literally rendered by "shun," or "leave him to himself," instead of "burn him." This is the only text ever quoted for such a punishment. Its mistranslation has sent many a good Christian to the stake.

Steele's Answers pp. 184, 185.

Friday, September 19, 2014

On Churches, Sects, and Associations

QUESTION: Why do we not find the history and statement of doctrines of the National Holiness Association in any of the cyclopedias or church history?

ANSWER: Because it is not a sect or denomination. It does not advocate any doctrines differing from universal Methodism. It aims to benefit the members of all evangelical churches and all others whom they can reach.

QUESTION: Please define the words "church" and "sect," and show whether they are antagonistic or harmonious.

ANSWER: The "church" or ecclesia is an assembly of those who love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own meetings for the promotion of their own spirituality and for the conversion of sinners and the disciplining of all nations, and who manage their own affairs according to regulations prescribed for the body for order's sake. "Sect" is not, as some erroneously say, from the Latin verb seco, "I cut," denoting something cut off, but from sequor, "I follow," denoting the disciples of some leader of philosophy or religion. In the four Gospels and the Acts it is never used as a term of reproach, but in a good sense, except in the erroneous English version of Acts 24:5,15, where the prosecuting attorney, the orator Tertullus, styles Paul "the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes," and Paul replies, "I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they (the Jews) call a sect (Revision), so serve I the God of my fathers." Here his plea is that his sectarianism is in perfect harmony with loyal membership in the Jewish church. Dr. Campbell, in his Dissertation IX, Part 4, Notes on the Four Gospels, proves that in the Epistles the word "heresy" (sect), when not associated with terms having a bad meaning, never has an evil signification. The conclusion is that "church" and "sect" are not antagonistic, but, as Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, were all in good standing in the Jewish church, because they believed in Moses, so Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, etc., all loving and obeying the same Savior, are loyal members of his body, his church.

Steele's Answers pp. 183, 184.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In What Sense is Sin Inherited?

QUESTION: In what sense may sin be transmitted?

ANSWER: Not as guilt, which implies an intelligent, willful, wrong act, but as a downward tendency according to the laws of heredity, by which not only physical and intellectual traits are transmitted, but also moral proclivities.

Steele's Answers p. 182, 183.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Holy Spirit & Pentecost

QUESTION: (1) Have we any Scriptures that indicate that the disciples were sanctified wholly before Pentecost? (2) Does the Holy Spirit take up his abode in the entirely sanctified heart? (3) Is not the gift of tongues necessary today to mark the incoming of the Spirit to abide permanently?

ANSWER: (1) No. The passage in John 20:22 indicates some spiritual gift, rather than the person of the Spirit. (2) Yes. See John 1416, 17, 23; 15:16; I Cor. 6:19; James 4:5. "That spirit which he made to dwell in us yearneth for us even unto jealous envy" (American Revised Version, margin). (3) Tongues were one of the extraordinary gifts (not graces) named in I Cor. 12:4-11. Says Paul, "Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving." In our day they are not needed. Christianity has better proofs of its truth in its transformation of individuals and nations.

Steele's Answers p. 182.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where Did Satan Come From?

QUESTION: Where did Satan come from?

ANSWER: From himself. As a sinless creature God created him, but as a devil he made himself (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 7:18, John 8:44, II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 12:3). Dr. Bushnell and others, myself included, think that a scheme of redemption was provided which some angels accepted and became confrmed in holiness, and others rejected and became permanently fixed in wickedness.

Steele's Answers pp. 181, 182.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Transformed by the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ

It will be spiritually healthful to dwell upon a few of the desperate cases which illustrate the power of the Gospel.

Paul thus describes a miracle of the Holy Ghost wrought in Corinth: "Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor drunkards, nor idolaters, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." Look at this rogues gallery, — as vile a gang as ever were sentenced to State-prison, — transformed by the grace of our Lord Jesus into a company of seraphs fit to be enthroned beside the archangels.

See Augustine, a rake transformed by the Holy Spirit, in answer to his mother's prayers, into the saintly Christian bishop. It was the power of the Spirit which changed John Newton, the captain of a slave-ship, into an eminent minister of the gospel of love, and the vicious tinker of Elstow, transfigured by the regenerating and sanctifying Spirit, into the glorious dreamer and author of Pilgrim's Progress, a book which has a grip on an earthly immortality next to the Bible itself. Take one of the many remarkable conversions of our own times; that of Jerry McAuley, notorious as the wickedest man in New York, a thief, drunkard, ex-convict, and noted river pirate. He was when nineteen years old sent to prison for fifteen years and six months. After he signed the temperance pledge, "he fell five times in the first few months and got fighting drunk." But after he let the Holy Spirit have the right of way through all his being he never fell again. He established a rescue mission in which hundreds, if not thousands, of sinners of his class were saved before his death, and many since he went up to receive a victor's crown.

Modern Methodists would receive a healthful spiritual tonic in studying the triumphs of the Gospel as preached by Wesley and Whitefield, disarming desperate and infuriated men, turning cursings into blessings, drunkards into sober men, whole communities of ignorant, besotted, and belligerent colliers into intelligent, peaceable Christians, thickly dotting their once semi-pagan region with elegant Wesleyan chapels, filled with joyful worshipers singing the hymns of the Wesleys, whose faith in the Holy Spirit's power to save was so strong that they risked their lives in preaching, to these worse than beasts at Ephesus, the glorious gospel of Christ. They believed that it could change lions into lambs. God signally honored their faith. O for such preachers everywhere, to-day and to-morrow and forever as long as sinners are found on the earth!

Well may the triumphant believer sing [with Charles Wesley], —

"Thou dost conduct thy people
Through torrents of temptation;
Nor will we fear while thou art near
The fire of tribulation;

"The world, with sin and Satan,
In vain our march opposes;
In thee we will break through them all
And sing the Song of Moses."

Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Temptation is one of the conditions of human probation. We must be put to the proof so long as we are in this world. Character can be solidified and beautified in no other way. Solicitations to sin under various disguises severely test all men. Temptation is a fiery furnace which either anneals or annihilates. The question, Which of these destinies? is determined each for himself. It is the question of power to endure the flames. This power in turn is the question of the indwelling of God, making the soul and body his habitation through the Spirit. This ultimately hinges on faith. "This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith." This unites with God and infuses into us his omnipotence. Some are tempted in one way and some in another; some in their animal nature, and yielding, are drawn downward to sensuality; some are tempted on the intellectual side, and failing to overcome, they become skeptics and stumble on the dark mountains of unbelief. Kings and presidents are tempted by their possession of power, and by a crowd of flatterers; the beggar is drawn toward the low vices of falsehood, deception, and theft. How may all classes overcome? There is but one sure way — by being girded with strength by the Holy Spirit received by faith in Jesus Christ.

— from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Conquering Love is Not Human, But Divine

Jesus Christ's method of conquest by love, disarming malice by turning the other cheek to the smiter, has been sneeringly criticized by a shallow philosophy as the vantage ground to wrong and not to right, as subversive of justice and good order, and inadequate to the cure of social evils. More recently a better philosophy, called altruism, has prevailed. Its primal principle is that the only way to beget right feelings, motives, and impulses in others is to manifest them as incarnated in yourself; that love toward the unworthy and malevolent will awaken responsive love. The second altruistic principle is that love towards enemies can originate and flourish on the plane of nature far below the sphere of the supernatural. The love that is conquering the world is not human but divine. Only by divine grace can you love the unlovely and hateful. You cannot do it by mere will power. Unchristian altruism is a fine theory but it will not work; it is utterly impracticable. Christianity is practicable when it successfully confronts all the moral, social, political, and economic problems, because omnipotence is its motive power, the omnipotence of that love which is sky-born.

— from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More Love, More Power

Another element of power inwrought by the Holy Spirit is love. We have all heard the phrase made classic in Christian literature by Dr. Chalmers' title to one of his sermons "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection."

A man's spiritual foes are chiefly of his own natural heart. He needs a power to bind these enemies and cast them out before he can have perfect peace. This power is love, not merely the natural affection for kindred and friends, but that supernatural affection "shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit," causing our whole being to move God-ward and man-ward, because man wears the image of God.

The Holy Spirit must not be viewed as a material agent infusing a subtle, imponderable fluid into man's body. He is God's messenger through whom he communicates the good news that his anger for our sins is turned away from us, and that he now loves us because of our faith in his Son. This trust in Christ has caused a revolution in us, turning us away from our sins and bringing us into the sphere of his complacent love. This good news from God that he loves me, even me, awakens responsive love in me, a new affection averse to every impulse in me which is hostile to God. This is the philosophy of the expulsive power of love.

Do I need any such message direct from God? Can I not infer from a study of my own mental exercises, and a comparison with the description of God's friends in his written Word, that God loves me? Let us see. The same Word of God declares that he is angry with the wicked every day. My conscience testifies that I am wicked. Before I can have perfect deliverance from a sense of guilt and dread of punishment I must know, beyond a peradventure, by an assurance excluding doubt, that I have been taken out of the company on whom God frowns, and have been put into company basking in his smile. Inference is not sufficient. I must have an assurance from the mouth of God himself. This alone allays fear and opens the fountain of the purest joy. This message instantaneously communicated is in beautiful harmony with our Protestant doctrine of justification by faith, a momentary act taking place in the mind of the Moral Governor in heaven. The witness of the spirit is the link between the pardoning God and the pardoned sinner. The news of God's benefaction awakens love towards the Benefactor. Hence this love divine arises in us in perfect harmony with the structure and laws of the human mind. Love is the essence of Christianity and its central power which is moving it through the world, and which will ultimately draw all nations to God:

"Sink downs ye separating hills,
Let sin and death remove;
'Tis love that drives my chariot wheels,
And death must yield to love."

The more love the more power. Perfect love brings the maximum of spiritual power to the individual and to the church.

When churches decline in love they lose their power to attract and to convert. Then it is pitiable to see the ineffectual substitutes for the lost power. To hold the young people who belong to them by inheritance they resort to entertainments, but these do not transform and fill with divine love. They are soon disgusted, and fall away from attending those amusements, which are discovered to be only baits to draw them unwilling into the net of the church when all their inclinations are to the world and its more attractive entertainments, — the pleasures of the dance, the card-table, and the theater. This is a most woeful mistake made by many modern churches. It must be rectified or those churches will become extinct. When does a church die? When it loses its converting power, just as a family becomes extinct when its power of reproduction is lost. You will find in our great libraries A History of Burke's Extinct Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Some centuries hence there may be found in our libraries a History of the extinct denominations of the United States, the Quakers, Swedenborgians, the Unitarians, the Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. They all died of one disease, — heart-failure.

 — edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Overcoming Doubt

"But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways." — James 1:6-8 (ASV 1901)

Incertitude is a paralysis of the soul's highest faculties. Doubt weakens by distraction. Etymologically it signifies moving in two opposite directions. It produces fluctuation, hesitation, and suspense. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." He has a divine premonition that he needs "not expect to receive anything from the Lord." If he is a preacher, his announcement of the Gospel will be weak and ineffectual. He cannot speak with the assurance of a personal experience which is requisite to produce conviction.

How many preachers would multiply their efficiency and usefulness if they would kneel down by the side of Paul and repeat in faith his petition that they might be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man! (Eph. iii. 14-21). It was his experience of the revelation of the Son of God in him by the Holy Ghost that made him successful as an evangelist, mighty in labors, courageous in danger, patient in sufferings, and triumphant in martyrdom. No heroism was ever born of doubt. It is only when the soul is set on fire by some great moral truth, clearly seen and firmly grasped, yea, ingrained into its very texture, that moral sublimity in effort, in sacrifice, and in speech emerges. Doubt heads no glorious company of martyrs marching to the stake.

It is customary to advise the doubter to a study of the Christian evidences, to count the towers of Christianity, and mark well her bulwarks. Such a survey has done me much good, and I commend it to all who have leisure. But there is for the mass of busy people a shorter way. Everybody cannot thoroughly master the treatises of Bishop Butler, Archdeacon Paley, and President Hopkins, and, if they could, they might die before they had got so far along as to be convinced of the truth and receive Christ as both Savior and Lord. What is the shorter way? With the New Testament open before him, even if he doubts the ability of Christ to save, let him act on the truth he does believe, however small, and kneel down with a sense of dependence on some higher power or person, and utter an honest prayer for help. Let him, if he doubts even the existence of God, begin as one bewildered skeptic did, by saying, "O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul." Our merciful God did not disdain to answer this prayer. The Holy Spirit showed in quick succession the greatness of his sins and the surpassing greatness of his Redeemer, whom he was enabled by the same spirit to apprehend by faith as his personal Savior. Now this shorter way, which we recommend to the slave ignorant of the alphabet, we commend to skeptical sage sitting in his ample library. On your knees pray for light, and as fast as it comes follow it. "If any man willeth to do his will" — God's will — "he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak from myself," as a mere man without divine authority. Heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle, one crossing of a t or dot of an i, shall fail in this promise in the case of one who seeks with a spirit of obedience to know Jesus Christ's character and mission. No man can be an honest skeptic till he has faithfully tried this shorter way and found that it leads nowhere. This way honestly trodden brings the doubter to certainty. Says Joseph Cook, "I assert that it is a fixed natural law that when you yield yourself utterly to God, his light will stream through and through your soul."

God honors obedience because it implies faith as its root. This truth we commend to those who regard it a special excellence to be in uncertainty respecting their relation to Christ. To be void of assurance they regard as an evidence of humility; whereas it is an evidence of a very defective obedience and of an absence of total self-surrender to God. As well might the guest without the wedding garment plead that this destitution evinces superior humility. Assurance is always accompanied by humility. Thomas never felt smaller than in the moment when his risen Lord stood before him challenging him to test the reality of his body. When he was constrained to cry, " My Lord and my God," "how cheap and mean his previous doubts seemed, and how deep his self-abasement.

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spiritual Power is an Endowment

When we inquire into the source of that might by which self is sanctified and Christ's kingdom is advanced, we encounter those who teach that it is developed within us by culture, as strength of body is increased by muscular exercise, and as intellectual strength is attained by severe study wrestling with difficulties. We are told that there is a germ of spiritual might in the most morally irresolute, and feeblest souls, which needs only natural stimulants to develop it into titanic strength. But neither experience, observation, nor history confirms this theory which theologians, from its first eminent advocate, called Pelagianism.

Spiritually the natural man is dead. Aside from divine help he has no power to purify his nature, and to soar aloft and hold communion with the skies. He has no wings for such a flight, nor motive power. These are the gift of divine grace under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ. We are not slandering the natural man when we describe him as sensual, not having the Spirit, for we are quoting the adjectives used by an acknowledged expert, the inspired apostle Jude. It were as reasonable to incite a corpse to walk the streets, and till the fields, as to inspire an unregenerate soul to rise from earth to heaven in its affections by any power less than that which comes from God. An eagle cannot outsoar the atmosphere. The natural man unaided cannot rise above depravity.

Spiritual might is not a development, but an endowment capable of a great increase by faithful use. "Tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high. Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." This promise includes our times, for the uttermost pagan tribe has not yet been evangelized.

This source of power is ignored and neglected just in proportion to the conformity of the church to the world. This is to sympathize with its spirit, to be chilled and deadened by its unbelief. When for the first time the Paraclete was promised, Jesus said respecting him, "Whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him." A worldly Christian, if such a paradox is allowable, has lost acquaintance with the Comforter. Thus sundering itself from the source of power, it seeks various substitutes, such as impressive architecture, artistic music, costly bouquets, gorgeous ceremonials at the altar, and rhetorical fireworks in the pulpit. Every church is a machine requiring some motive power. One church, after declining into worldliness, causing the departure of the Holy Spirit, the only agent to attract, convert, and sanctify people, and frame them together into a living church, resorts to the power of fashion; courts the classes, and in adapting its services to their refined taste, alienates the masses, and thus loses a hundredfold more than it gains.

— from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What the Spirit Prompts, the Spirit Can Accomplish

Whatever duty the Spirit prompts a person to do, whether repentance toward God, or saving trust in Jesus Christ, or to seek entire sanctification through his blood and that perfect love which casts out fear, the same Spirit will enable him to accomplish.

Moral obligation always implies gracious ability. In every "ought" there is an implied "can."

But the endowment of the Spirit is not limited to his negative efficiency in the destruction of evil in the inner man. He is the ally of the believer in his offensive war against sin in others, in advancing the kingdom of God by aggression upon the ranks of Christ's enemies. When this ally is neglected there is no progress; the chariot wheels of King Jesus are taken off and the hosts of Satan prevail.

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Highest Possibilities of Grace Divine

Sin paralyzes the will even where it fails to put a film over the eye. In the downfall of our race, in the transgression of our first parents, all our spiritual nature was damaged; the intellect the least, the will and moral sensibilities the most. Whence is the strength by which this weakness can be removed? Certainly not from within man, but from without; not from beneath, but from above, even from the source of all power, God himself. If fallen man is to overcome the evil propensities in his depraved nature and sit with King Jesus on his throne as he overcame and is set down with his Father in his throne, he must secure a mighty ally in the war which he must wage with the world, the flesh, and the devil. With this ally he can walk arm in arm in unsullied whiteness through the pollutions of the present world.

As Jesus Christ is to-day in spotless holiness (1 John iv. 17), so are we who believe in him with a faith that lays hold of the highest possibilities of grace divine.

It used to be argued that although man in his fallen estate has the natural ability to repent and believe, he has a total moral inability by reason of the perversity of his will. This deadlock between natural and moral ability was formerly urged as an excuse for impenitence, till the special call and the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit should come to those who are written down in the register of God's secret will as unconditionally elected to eternal life before the foundation of the world. When Jesse Lee, the apostle of Methodism, came into New England in the last decade of the eighteenth century, he met everywhere, among saints and sinners, preachers and people alike, this pernicious doctrine, dishonoring God and destroying the souls of men. He banished it from the pulpits of New England by preaching the impartiality of the Divine regards, the universal extent of the atonement, and the GRACIOUS ABILITY of every sinner to repent through the help of the Holy Spirit freely bestowed upon all without respect of persons.

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Endowment of Power

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto 10all generations for ever and ever. Amen."  — Ephesians 3:14-21 (ASV 1901)

The prayer of Paul for the Ephesians sanctions our entreaty for a blessing beyond perfect purity, even that we may "be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man."

This brings us to our theme, the endowment of power.

There is in this prayer (Eph. iii. 14-21) nothing negative desired, no work of destruction prayed for, no reference to guilt, and no intimation that the old man is still alive and warring against the reign of Christ. Every petition is for a positive gift reaching this climax, "that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God." Paul supposes the Ephesians are dead unto sin, and now prays for the fullness of the divine life which Christ calls the more abundant life. Many become weak because they rest satisfied with a negative experience without putting forth holy energies, the plenitude of the divine life.

Our criticism of the churches of our day is that they are manifestly lacking in those positive qualities for which the apostle prays for the church in Ephesus. Christ strongly hints the possibility that his disciples may become like salt that has lost its savor. How may such salt be known? We answer, by its failure to preserve from corruption that perishable substance to which it has been applied without changing its form and name. What then shall we say respecting those churches numerous in members, venerable in age, and strong in social influence, around which communities are sinking in moral decay and spiritual death, and in many cases wallowing in gross vices? Are they not destitute of saving power? Power is known by its effects. The absence of the effects argues the absence of the cause, the power of the Holy Spirit in individuals, and their aggregate, the church.

In discussing the endowment of power we cannot sunder it from its effects, and examine and define it in the abstract. All power has a spiritual origin. My muscular power by which I write these words originates not in my nervous system, nor in my brain, but in my spirit of which it is the organ. The forces in ceaseless activity about me, gravitation, heat, magnetism, and electricity, are not in the last analysis to be ascribed to matter, but to the Mind of its Creator, who, while he transcends matter, is in touch with every particle by his immanence. We are now in the region of mystery. But there are no greater mysteries in religion than in science, if we go down to the bottom of things and ask questions. For all beginnings are mysterious. If we reject Christianity because of its mysteries, we have started on a road which leads to the subversion of all the sciences. We cannot tell how the might of the Spirit of God is imparted to the inner man of the believer in Christ. But this is the endowment of power for which Paul prays. It is something beyond mere intellectual power, the capacity of the mind to energize intensely and continuously. This is desirable. To attain it we found schools and universities. In the days of the apostles it was miraculously imparted under the names of the gift of wisdom, the gift of knowledge, the gift of tongues, and the gift of interpretation.

The power which Paul invokes upon the Ephesian church is the restoration of Conscience to her lost throne; it is the ability not only to resist temptations when unmasked, but also to detect the devil in the guise of an angel of light. For fallen men have two weak points, dull spiritual discernment and depraved desires. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to fortify these points, and to bring souls obedient to the truth to that full age or perfection which consists not only in having their spiritual perceptions clarified and exercised to discern both good and evil, but also in the ability always to resist the evil and to cleave to the good.

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Authority and Faith

"Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." — John vi. 68

Our text demonstrates that a craving for authority in respect to religious questions is natural to the human soul and that Christianity is more than a system of abstract truth addressed to the reason, — it is a series of facts to be apprehended by faith. We hunger for certainty in matters of such vital interest and of such personal importance. The interests are of too great a magnitude to permit us to rest at ease without a clear knowledge of our relations to eternity, and without all possible safeguards about our future well-being. Uncertainty brings suspense and fear. How natural the inquiry, is there no person who knows how to answer our religions inquiries, whose word is of sufficient weight to give to our anxious souls the confidence and security of certainty? How reasonable, if such a person should appear on earth and display undoubted credentials, unrolling his commission written by the finger of God and enstamped with heaven's broad seal of miracles, that all mankind should hail him with joy, and hasten to sit at his feet, to drink in his words, and to submit to his guidance, laying their hands in his, saying, Lead thou me, O thou unerring guide, for I am blind. What a value in one word coming down out of heaven direct, distinct and authoritative on a question of immediate personal interest to us all — an interest so broad that it sweeps in the whole of the endless future of the soul.

See the perplexed Grecian moralist in his cell at Athens groping for light on the destiny of man, and finding no clear and steady blaze flaming up from that heap of subtle reasonings, fables and traditions which Socrates piled up to illumine his own passage to the tomb and to cheer his lingering, weeping and inconsolable friends. How he cried out for a theios logos (θεῖος λόγος), a divine word, to shoot its steady radiance athwart their darkness, and to give the rest of assurance to their weary spirits.

Such a divine Logos have we, who is the true light coming into the world enlightening every man. He hath brought life and immortality to light. He did not originate the doctrine, but he established it on the basis of his own authority. No wonder that Peter refused to abandon this light. Peter, who had left his fishing nets to go spellbound after Jesus, Peter who had beheld the miracles wrought by his word, who had listened entranced to his revelation of things unseen, and who had gazed upon the transcendent glory and majesty of his Master transfigured on the mount. This thirst for authority cannot be suppressed. It is ineradicable in the human soul. If men are deprived of the infallible word they must be provided with an infallible substitute. Hence Rome sways the rod of spiritual power over millions because she professes to speak with authority. Even skeptics themselves, who contemn the authority of Jesus as derogatory to the dignity of true manhood, distrusting the authority of reason, unconsciously lean upon one another. Voltaire, Paine, Parker and Ingersoll, each in his respective age does all the thinking, and the crowd of skeptics of feebler wing or weaker brain follow cravenly in their track. Thus our boasted freethinkers think in the chains of a fallible human authority. Said a puzzled liberalist when asked to reconcile the conflict between Jesus Christ's pretensions and his moral excellence, "I must visit Theodore and ask him how he gets along with this difficulty."

Jesus Exultant Chapter 9.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Natural Religion Fails to Discover Forgiveness

At another vital point do all systems of natural religion fail utterly in affording to the guilty soul the assurance of forgiveness. Here is a practical test. Does my religion save me now from the guilt, the pollution and the dominion of sin? Go and question nature until you are gray. Her lips will ever be dumb. Though Bishop Butler may find in the constitution and course of nature some faint analogies which may confirm the doctrine of forgiveness when it has been once revealed, there is not in the whole range of nature sufficient light for the discovery and demonstration of this cardinal evangelical truth.

The analogies of suffering invariably treading upon the heels of violated natural law with no provision in nature to arrest the penal consequences, strongly incline men to believe that punishment must inevitably, without an exception, follow the transgression of moral law. Hence paganism teaches that the penalty follows the sin as surely as the cart-wheel rolls in the footsteps of the ox. Socrates was so impressed with the cardinal doctrine of natural religion, that God is just, that he doubted whether God could pardon sin. The semi-paganism of the liberalists and free-religionists teaches the absolute impossibility of the pardon of sin. In their estimation it would be plucking down the pillars of God's throne and subverting the moral order of the universe. But turn to Christianity and you find that not only forgiveness through faith in the atoning Savior, but also the knowledge of forgiven sin, is its grand and glorious peculiarity. From the day the apostles went forth preaching to guilty men the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins till this hour, there have not been absent from the earth witnesses to the truth of this doctrine. Millions have crossed the flood, and millions are crossing now who can say, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Jesus Exultant Chapter 9.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Natural Religion Fails in the Face of Death

In all minds which have not been spoiled by sophistry or puffed up by false philosophy and self-conceit, there is a spontaneous shrinking back from treading alone the unexplored continent of religious truth and a crying out for a guide."Who will show us any good?" Socrates, pronounced by the Delphic Oracle the wisest man of his generation, to whom we shall again refer in the present discussion as the best representative of the entire heathen world, on the day of his death, sitting upon his bed in his prison, when about to enter upon his argument for the immortality of the soul, exhorted his friends "to supplicate the gods for help while we take hold of one another's hands and enter this deep and rapid river." Deep and rapid indeed is the river of theological inquiry without the aid of revelation. Who feels competent, without supernatural light, to give a satisfactory answer to that solemn question which arises in every sober mind:

"Soon as from earth I go,
What will become of me?"

Can any of us lay aside our Bibles, close our eyes to the life-giving words of Jesus, and then avow our ability to answer the cry of universal humanity:

"Who can resolve the doubt
That tears my anxious breast,"

by drawing aside the veil from that "land of deepest shade," and pointing out its crystal rivers, its sunny vales, its fragrant groves, and giving to each eager soul a title deed to some choice spot for a future home?

We know that a school of theological teachers has recently sprung up who magnify man's religious instincts. These teach that revelation is a superfluity; that every man has within himself all resources for the discovery of essential religious truth; that the Bible has been rendered obsolete by the progress of the race in theological science; that every soul is thrown upon its own spiritual instincts and impulses for guidance. As certain authors publish books entitled "Every Man His Own Lawyer," "Every One His Own Physician," so those professed religious teachers would have every one his own revelation, every one his own inspiration; or as others devise traps for the simple called "French Without a Master, in Six Lessons," "Latin Without a Master, in Four Lessons," so these apostles of the new dispensation of "the absolute religion" would deceive their fellow-men with the finely sounding advertisement, "Religion Without Master, in No Lessons."

Let us institute some tests of the religion of nature. What headway does the human soul make in following its own light? How does it solve the religious problems which baffled the skill of all the centuries before Jesus Christ came? How is future happiness to be secured? The religionist answers, By living righteously, doing good to man and loving God. But to find his answer he has committed a stupendous plagiarism on the Bible. He has gone to it to awaken his religious instincts at this great center of light and life, and then, like all thieves, he denies and decries the source of his plundered treasure. If the human soul has no need of going outside of itself to answer all religious questions satisfactorily, if it has no occasion for using the self-distrustful words of Peter, "To whom shall we go?" the best way of testing the question is to examine those who have never seen the inspired Word, just as we would test the brilliancy of some new lighting material by carrying the lamp out of the sunlight into the darkness. Go away with me for a moment out of the resplendence of revelation in to the darkness of heathenism, and see how wisely, how purely men live. Here is a whole nation offering worship to an ox, an onion, a lizard. Egypt was at that time the most cultivated nation on the earth. The religious instincts of another people offer human slaughter for praise, rear pyramids of skulls to secure the divine favor, toss infants to crocodiles and burn widows on huge funeral piles, and grind to powder the flesh and bones of living men beneath its bloody Juggernauts. The ancient Babylonians religiously required every virgin to surrender in Phallic worship that which is of greater value than all the gold and diamonds in South Africa; while the Thugs of India actually waylay and murder as acts of religious duty. Dimly indeed burns the flame of spiritual instinct, and widely do they wander who follow its flickering and uncertain light.

Death is a just ordeal of a religious system. How does the religion of spiritual instinct enable men to die? We are told that Theodore Parker, the great advocate of the absolute religion, as he styled it, lay down in Florence upon his dying couch in impenetrable gloom which his cold, barren and Christless theology had no power to dissipate. They who have advanced no farther than the religion of nature universally die without triumph. Said Socrates, that greatest pagan moralist, before alluded to, as the hour for drinking the hemlock approached, "The swan as it sees its end approaching, begins its most melodious song, and floating down the river charmed by its own music, meets death with dignity and composure. Man," said the dying philosopher, "should die with as much cheerfulness as the bird." "But," replied one of his disciples, uttering the feelings of the whole heathen world, "death is a terror to us. It unmans us and fills us with dreadful fears. We cannot die thus. We have no swan's song with which to float down the river of life into the boundless sea of eternity." "Go, then," said that wisest pagan, with a sagacity amounting almost to divine inspiration, "travel through all lands, spare no toil, no expense, that ye may find the song which can charm away the fear of death." But those poor pagan Greeks, amid the splendors of that era of literature and art, sought in vain for the swan's song of victory over the fear of death. But four hundred years afterward the wondering shepherds caught from the glad angels a part of that song. Behold, we bring you glad tidings of great joy: to-day is born a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. But the full song was first taught to mortals when Jesus opened his lips at Lazarus' tomb, saying, "I am the resurrection and the life, "and only a few years afterward there floated from the grated window of a prison in Rome the music of this complete and triumphant swan's song: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight .... Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness!" Through all the centuries of the Christian church the triumphant deaths of millions with this song upon their tongues have attested the divinity of the gospel, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory." At last Charles Wesley, in a moment of more than poetic inspiration, put the swan's song of the believer into a sacred lyric fit for a seraphic lyre:

"Jesus, the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
'Tis music in the sinner's ears,
'Tis life, and health, and peace."

— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 9.