This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. I still do that every once in a while.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Executive of the Godhead

For several years our mind has been laboring to invent some concise expression for the sum of all the offices of the Third Person of the Trinity, in the transformation, sanctification, and habitation of souls who fully believe in Christ Jesus. At last Dr. Hodge, [President of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Princeton, N.J. U.S.A.] has struck out with his die the very coin which our own mint has failed to stamp and contribute to the currency of Christian experience and theological discussion. "The Holy Ghost is the Executive of the Godhead." We telegraph our thanks to Princeton. May Dr. Hodge's mint continue to pour out its golden coin into our religious literature for many years more. This clear cut conception and expression of the work of the Spirit is exceedingly beautiful because it is indisputably true. Law emanates from the Father, and mercy and judgment are committed to the Son, while the Executive of both Persons is the ever blessed Spirit. Here we have the three departments of government: the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. Through the Holy Spirit the Father and the Son operate on human souls, reproving, regenerating, witnessing and sanctifying. We now see how a person may honor the Father, and in a measure the Son, and yet fail of obtaining the highest spiritual grace through a failure to honor the Holy Ghost, the blessed Comforter; just as a man may show all proper respect to the lawmaking and law-interpreting departments of our own government, and secure their action, and then miss his purpose at last by ignoring the last link necessary to its realization — the executive officer, without whose agency statutes and courts are ineffectual. We fear that there are many Christians who inadvertently fail in their tribute of respect, faith, and worship to the Holy Ghost, regarding him as an impersonal emanation or influence streaming from God, or as only another name for the Father, who can just as well without Him reach and transfigure their sin-stained souls, through the blood of the Lamb that taketh away the sin of the world.

To human reason this looks very plausible. But Christian experience, especially in its advanced stages, has proved it to be fallacious. We must believe in the Holy Ghost as the indispensable agent in the production of spiritual life, both in its incipiency and in its FULLNESS. There is a sense in which he is now the most important active factor in the production of Christian character.

The work of the Father in the gift of the Son, the work of the Son in pouring out His own blood as a sin-offering, are completed past acts. But the work of the Spirit in each individual believer is incomplete.

They very greatly mistake who suppose that He fully accomplished His mission to our world on the day of Pentecost, or, at the farthest, when He had inspired the last word of the New Testament; and that He then withdrew, leaving the Church under the reign of fixed spiritual laws. Such a creed as this chills the soul and deadens all the fires of faith and love.

Let the entire Church come to a full realization that the Comforter came to abide, and that He is now descending in personal pentecosts as certainly and as demonstrably in the consciousness of every perfect believer as He did in the upper room in Jerusalem: then will the glory of the dispensation of the Spirit begin to be generally seen, and "the Executive of the Godhead" receive fitting honour.

To have faith in Christ and not to have faith in the Spirit seems to be a great contradiction: yet we submit it for the judgment of candid inquirers whether this very contradiction is not strikingly exhibited in the case of almost all who profess to be followers of Christ. To know the Father, we must know the Son; to know Christ, we must know the Spirit.  — George Bowen, Love Revealed.

This is our privilege: "Ye know Him." "He shall testify of Me." We suspect that much of the repugnance among good Christian people to an instantaneous sanctification comes from a sort of naturalistic view of the kingdom of grace left to the operation of fixed laws in the absence of the King. They forget that the King has left in His stead a personal successor and viceregent, clothed with omnipotent power.

The day of Pentecost was a pattern day. All the days of this dispensation should have been like it, or should have exceeded it. But alas! the Church has fallen down to the state in which it was before this blessing had been bestowed, and it is necessary, for us to ask Christ to begin over again. We, of course, in respect to knowledge — intellectual knowledge of spiritual things — are far in advance of the point where the disciples were before the Pentecost. But it should be borne in mind that when truths have once been fully revealed and made a part of orthodoxy, the holding of them does not necessarily imply any operation of the Spirit of God. We deceive ourselves, doubtless, in this way, imagining that because we have the whole Scriptures, and are conversant with all its great truths, the Spirit of God is necessarily working in us. We need the baptism of the Spirit as much as the apostles did at the time of Christ's resurrection. — George Bowen, Love Revealed.

That was not a mere dash of rhetoric which fell from the pen of John Fletcher, when he spoke of the Pentecost as the opening of "the kingdom of the Holy Ghost." He has the signet ring of our glorified King Jesus, and reigns over the family on earth as the Son of Man reigns over the family above. He has not shut himself up as an impersonal force in the tomb of uniform law, but he walks through the earth, a glorious personality, with the keys of divine power attached to His girdle, and with the rod of empire in His right hand. He works miracles in the realm of spirit, as did Immanuel in the realm of matter. The new Creator of the soul performs a greater work than the original Creator of man, inasmuch as the former works upon material which is capable of an eternal resistance to His plastic touch, while in matter there was no such antagonism.

Mile-Stone Papers, Part 1, Chapter 16.

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