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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Value of Christian Joy

The notion is widely prevalent that an emotional religion must be fitful and unstable.

It is true that feeling excited by appeals to the sensibilities only, without any inculcation of truth upon the intellect, is to be deprecated. This results in a Christian character described by Christ as the stony-ground hearer that hears the word, and anon with joy receives it, but having no root in himself he endures only for a while. The failure is not to be ascribed to the joy, but to the lack of deep moral convictions resulting from a reception of Christian truth used by the Holy Spirit as a subsoil plowshare breaking up the fallow ground of the heart as a preparation for a spiritual life which will grow more and more robust as persecutions and tribulations increase.

Scholarly men are apt to think that feeling stands on a lower plane than the understanding and that it is not consistent with large thinking powers. Hence comes the error which spoils so much preaching warming at the head instead of the heart. It is thought that he who addresses the emotions and melts his hearers to tears is not so great as the master of syllogisms who welds a flawless chain of argument. Hence the tendency of the schools is to repress feeling and to intensify the dry intellect; whereas few people reason while all feel.

All popular preaching takes the line of the sensibilities. The great orators of the ages have been emotional men. Study the sermons of Whitefield, Spurgeon, Beecher and Simpson and you will find them all mastering men's wills through appeals to feeling based on truth clearly presented to the intellect. Christianity addresses the whole man. Such fundamentals as the atonement, the day of judgment, heaven and hell, are adapted to awaken a torrent of emotion so strong as to move the will to right action. Sinai trumpets its alarm to fear, while Calvary tenderly speaks to gratitude and hope.

The preacher has a message which can satisfy the strongest intellect and yet sway men of low degree, the illiterate, the barbarian, the savage. The intellectual dwarf, "who thinks the moon no larger than his father's shield," can believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, and be quickened into spiritual life, be filled with the joy of the Holy Ghost and be lifted to an immeasurably wider horizon of thought. Again how true is the scripture, "The joy of the Lord is your strength."

How many Christians miss the secret of spiritual power. They are weak to resist temptation, and lack power to draw others to Christ. There is much friction to overcome in themselves. The oil-can is as necessary to the continuous motion of the train as is the piston-rod, for without oiling the machinery would soon be destroyed. Christian joy is to the believer both impulse and lubrication. It is not work that kills, but worry. There is much less danger that a joyful Christian minister will wear out by his excessive labor than that a dry, unanointed, emotionless preacher will be used up by the friction of his unoiled machinery.

The joy of the Holy Ghost neutralizes physical pain, cheers in sickness, comforts in penury, lightens every burden and makes Christian labor fruitful. The joy of the Holy Spirit lifts the soul above the most depressing circumstances. Three days after the battle of Gettysburg a wounded and dying officer was found in a stable into which he had crawled, shouting happy. Without food, without water to quench his thirst intensified by his loss of blood and by the heat of July; without human companionship, with the prospect of dying alone without the means of sending his farewell message to the loved ones at home, he testified that so great was his Christian joy the days spent in that stable were the happiest of his whole earthly life. It was the presence of the Holy Ghost in their hearts which enabled Christians in apostolic times, and Methodists in the "back country" in England, whose houses were plundered and furniture carried off by persecuting mobs in the days of Wesley, to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had their own selves for a better possession (Heb. x. 34, R. V., margin) here in the present life.

Jesus Exultant, Chapter 7.

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