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.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Pentecostal Attestation

Pentecost is the final, indispensable and standing attestation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and of the truth of all His declarations. In other words, the gift of the Paraclete, not merely as a solitary event, but as a perpetual dispensation of grace and power, is absolutely necessary to the perfection of the Christian evidences. The resurrection of Christ, according to Paul in I Cor. xv. and all Christian apologists, is the fundamental proof of His divine mission. It is my purpose to show that this greatest miracle, taken by itself as an isolated event, without the standing and perpetual attestation of the Pentecostal dispensation as a predicted sequence, would have been insufficient for the establishment of Christianity against the universal opposition of Jews and Gentiles, including ten imperial edicts of persecution and extermination beginning with Nero, A. D. 64, and ending with Diocletian, A. D. 313. Much less would it have been sufficient to perpetuate the gospel eighteen hundred years as a system dominating the world's best thought and keeping in advance of the progress of the ages. We mean to say that the empty tomb without the tongues of fire descending from generation to generation on Spirit-baptized believers would have been inadequate to the permanent enthronement of Christianity over mankind. If "another Comforter" had not succeeded Christ, His mission, with all His miracles, including His victory over the tomb, would have been a failure, and His sermons and parables would long since have been forgotten. This idea is beautifully expressed in the first verse and the last of President W. F. Warren's hymn.

"I worship Thee, O Holy Ghost,
I love to worship Thee;
My risen Lord for aye were lost
But for Thy company.

"I worship Thee, O Holy Ghost,
I love to worship Thee;
With Thee each day is Pentecost,
Each night nativity."

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 9.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Does the Carnal Nature Return?

QUESTION: Does the carnal nature, destroyed by entire sanctification, return and become the impulse to the sinful act when a person entirely sanctified commits sin?

ANSWER: No. The sinful act defiles the nature. This raises the question how a perfectly holy being can sin. How did sin get into a holy universe. This is an unanswerable question which has vexed all the philosophy of all generations. There are no causes of sin, and no good reason, only conditions privative, such as defect of knowledge in Adam and in all children; want of acquaintance with law and its penalty, with the added fact that no free agent is ever created or born fully equipped for liberty by experience and good habits. And lastly, the holiest person on the earth is exposed to the irruption of evil spirits. These considerations do not necessitate sin, but they render it highly probable. Father E. T. Taylor, "the old man eloquent" in the Boston Seaman's Bethel, used to speak of Adam as a "big baby toddling forth amid the pitfalls of Satan." This is only a concrete way of saying with Bishop Butler's Analogy, that the Creator could not make a moral agent with good moral habits. The puzzle of the sin of an entirely sanctified person, though of the same kind as that of the sin of the holy angels, may be somewhat greater becasue of his former experience of the sorrow of sinning.

Steele's Answers pp. 212, 213.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

From What Do Sins Originate?

QUESTION: From what cause does the act of sin in man originate?

ANSWER: The free will is the first cause of its own moral acts, just as God is the first cause of all created being. A first cause is unthinkable; we cannot mentally construe either the absolute, like a first cause, or the infinite, like a succession of causes running back without end. Man is the creator of his own character and destiny. The most important part of God's universe is left for free agents to create — moral character. When it is completed at the close of each one's probation, whether the character is good or bad, God. cannot arbitrarily interpose to change it. As the free agent has fixed it so it must remain eternally.

Steele's Answers pp. 212.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On Speaking in Tongues

QUESTION: How shall we treat those good people who profess to have the gift of tongues?

ANSWER: With Christian kindness, telling them that tongues are not an infallible sign of love, and much less of' perfect love, I Cor. 13:1, and that they "will cease" (ver. 8), but that "love never faileth." Tongues were the first gift on the day of Pentecost, but they did not continue in the primitive church so long as the other miraculous gifts. If the purpose of this gift was to facilitate the spread of this gospel, it would be advisable to use it now on the unsaved immigrants who make our great cities Babels. While Paul says, "Forbid not to speak with tongues," he, in the same chapter strongly discourages it when he writes, "I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."

Steele's Answers pp. 211, 212.

Were All the Disciples Backsliders?

QUESTION: A prominent evangelist teaches that the disciples were all backsliders before Pentecost and had to be reclaimed. He used John 21 to prove his point, especially the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Is he not mistaken?

ANSWER: Yes, he is egregiously mistaken. The recurrence of seven of the apostles to their former occupation waiting calmly for some sign from the Master which should determine their future was not indicative of backsliding, but it was in accord with the intimation in Luke 22:36 that they must now be self-supporting preachers as Paul was an example in Acts 18:3, II Thess. 3:8. It is very evident that the thrice-repeated question to Simon Peter had reference, not to the other apostles, but to him alone, and that it related to his three denials of Christ in the court of the high priest's house.

Steele's Answers pp. 210, 211.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Ecclesiastes 7:20

QUESTION: Explain Eccl. 7:20, "For there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not."

ANSWER: This is a defective translation for "may not sin." There is no just man who is impeccable, or infallible. The mistake arises from the fact that in the Hebrew language there is no potential mood, but the future tense of the indicative is used instead. When the Hebrew wished to say, "It may rain to-day," he had to say "It will rain to-day." Thus the hearer or reader was left in doubt whether a certainty or uncertainty is intended; and he must use his wits to determine by studying the context. Thus in Solomon's dedicatory paper in I Kings 8:46, II Chron. 6:36, it is evident that the Hebrew future means "may sin." It is thus translated in the Vulgate, the Syriac and Arabic, in the London and Paris Polyglots, in Castalid's, Osiander's and Francis Junius's versions, and in the Antwerp interlineal translations and in the marginal note in the Miniature Quarto of the Baxters, high Calvinists though they are. If Solomon had been dedicating an insane hospital and had said: "If any man becomes insane, for there is no man who will not become insane, let him come here and be cured," most people would say that the "will not" here means "may not." It is thus translated in Gen. 3:2, 27:25, Job 13:13, 14:6, in our English Bible. This text correctly translated gives no support to the pernicious doctrine of the necessity of sin in the believer, or in any man on the earth, I am suspicious that this error is perpetuated by translators by reason of the general dislike of holiness as possible in human experience this side of the grave. It is natural to the heart of man to desire a Scriptural excuse for sin. It is a nice pillow on which the carnal mind may slumber.

Steele's Answers pp. 209, 210.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Meanings of "Sanctify"

QUESTION: I have just listened to a preacher who said there are two words in Greek for sanctify, one signifying to set apart, and the other to make holy. Which of these is used in John 17:19, "For their sakes I sanctify myself that they themselves may be sanctified in truth." (R.V.)

ANSWER: There are not two words, but one word with two meanings, both of which are in this text: "I set apart of consecrate myself to the salvation of believers in order that they may be truly sanctified, cleansed from all defilement." This is the meaning of "in truth," as also in Matt. 22:16, Col. 1:6, II John 1:1, III John 1. In Luke 17:33 Christ uses "life" with two meanings. In II Cor. 5:21, "sin" is used first as guilt and secondarily as a sin-offering. This use of a word with two meanings was regarded by Hebrew writers as rhetorical elegance. Christ had no need to be truly sanctified because he had no sin. The depraved tendencies of believers need entire sanctification.

Steele's Answers pp. 208, 209.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Text Against Life Insurance?

QUESTION: Does not this text rebuke life insurance: "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me." (Jer. 49:11.)

ANSWER: It does not teach that we should neglect the helpless. God cares for them through human agency. He awakens the altruistic spirit of compassion and charity in Christians who found asylums for orphans and homes for widows. He also gives most people sense enough to save part of their earnings and make deposits in the savings bank or some reliable life insurance company, instead of living from hand to mouth in utter disregard for the future. The Bible nowhere teaches improvidence, though infidels say it does, and therefore its teachings are impracticable and irrational.

Steele's Answers pp. 208.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Does God Override Human Freedom in Answer to Prayer?

QUESTION: Since the Question Box denies conversion by a temporary suspension of freedom, how do you explain John 15:7, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you?"

ANSWER: At first sight this looks like a reckless promise, but a closer study discovers safeguards, one of which is "unto you," implying the gift of grace, strength and all the fruit of the Spirit to those who do the asking. Another safeguard is in "abide in me," implying such a union with Christ as to ask for nothing unwise, and not in accord with his will expressed in "my words abide in you." Now we know that he said, "Ye will not come to me that ye may have life," and we know that Christ will not do so foolish a thing as to dehumanize a saloon-keeper and turn him into a machine and thrust him neck and heels into his kingdom against his will, though all the saints on earth are asking to save him. What is salvation but the awakening of love, free and spontaneous in a wicked heart? Can love be forced? What crude theological ideas some people have! They think it is the office of the Holy Spirit to take every stubborn sinner by the coat collar and drag him to Christ in answer to prayer. This is inherited from predestinarianism.

Steele's Answers pp. 207, 208.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pew Rent

QUESTION: Is it right to patronize or worship in churches which require payment for the sittings?

ANSWER: It is not the way to reach and save the unchurched masses. It gives them an excuse for nonattendance. It keeps alive the idea that the church is a sort of club in which none but "our set" are wanted; and gives scope for class distinctions, the rich in the best pews and the poor in the less desirable. If pews are given to the very poor, they very naturally shrink from sitting in the seat of the paupers. Hence it is exceedingly difficult to keep a pewed church full of hearers. These are very grave objections which are not obviated by the arguments in favor of this practice such as that it is easier to finance, family sittings are more favorable to the attendance and good behavior of the children, a place for one's hymnal, psalter and Bible. I cannot say that it is not right to attend such a church, for in many cases it is the only open communion church in that place. This is the writer's situation. The most I can say is that it is not the best way to promote the kingdom of Christ. The Protestant Episcopal Church is worthy of commendation for bravely attempting to make all their churches free. I hope their great success will be complete.

Steele's Answers pp. 206, 207.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Central Idea of Christianity

Guest blog by Bishop Jesse T. Peck (1811 – 1883)

What is the central idea of Christianity?

First, we shall consult the Scriptures. The doctrines, institutions, and obligations included in Christianity, are discussed, separately and combined, in the Holy Bible, in a great variety of forms. But he must read very superficially who can regard them as detached and independent truths. The more profoundly we study the sacred volume, the more clearly we shall see that it embodies and illustrates a splendid scheme of remedial government. Not a thought, not a fact, not a truth, bears a foreign stamp, or indicates in the slightest degree that it exists for itself alone, or for any other system whatever. The great idea which originated the several parts of this amazing scheme, is to be ascertained, not by accidental reading or limited study of the Bible, but by the strictest attention to its drift. Principles, in the abstract and in the concrete, must be collated with the utmost care. The minutest particulars, as well as the most prominent and extensive, must be viewed in their relations to each other, and the grand scope of the whole divine teaching ascertained. whoever does this, will, we think, find the following truths, tending to a solution of our problem, clearly established:

1. The choice of God for the moral condition of the human race was perfect purity; hence he created man in his own image.

2. As this was once the choice of God, it must be eternally so, and the divine preference or will can never be met but by perfect moral purity.

3. Sin interfered with this choice, to the full extent of its existence and reign, and hence called out the severest divine displeasure.

4. There has, therefore, never been and never can be the slightest toleration of sin in any divine communications; it is condemned with unsparing severity in its most secret and plausible forms.

5. As man, by becoming a sinner, has incurred the divine displeasure, he can be saved from calamity and made perfectly happy only by entire deliverance from sin.

6. Remedial measures, originating in God, must aim directly at the destruction of sin. Excepting it in any of its forms, making provision for its continuance, its justification, or excuse, in the soul of the saved, to any extent, would be trifling, impossible in him.

7. The sacrificial offering of Christ, and the means and appliances of the gospel, reveal the plan of salvation by the destruction of sin and the restoration of man to the image of God, and can, in no way, be reconciled with the idea of salvation in sin.

We have not room to amplify these propositions, or to introduce the Scriptures which prove them. Nor is it necessary, as they will not be questioned by any whom we can hope to reach. But if they truly indicate the drift of revelation, they show, incontestably, that the great idea of Christianity is holiness; that this vast scheme of suffering, teaching, labor, and agency, has all been produced and is carried on solely to deliver man from his sins, for the ultimate perfection of Christian character. There are certain Scriptures which show conclusively that we have not mistaken the teachings of revelation upon this great question.

St. Paul to the Colossians has this remarkable saying in regard to Christ: "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily." Then to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus," is the grand and sole design of apostolic preaching. Christ, as our Mediator, appears among men to answer to that idea. He throws himself into the greatest of the apostles to energize his soul, his eloquence, and his labors, for that purpose alone. Can there be a stronger declaration that the perfection of Christian character is the central idea of the gospel? if so, we have it in this: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Holiness, then, or the "perfecting of the saints," produced the pastorate in all its forms. This alone, therefore, can explain its sacred functions; and in every endowment and authorized effort, it points to the splendid idea which called it into existence.

We give one quotation more, which covers the whole ground of revelation. Paul says to Timothy: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Here, then, are "the Holy Scriptures " "given by inspiration of God," with their vast details of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction, for the sole purpose of producing experimental and practical perfection; and in this life, as it is thus that "the man of God" is to "be thoroughly furnished unto all good works." There is, then, no resisting it. This great idea produced the Bible — the whole Bible — and it is this alone that renders every part of it luminous. If this is the thing to be done, to make "the man of God perfect," it is just the Bible we need; and it is most appropriately entitled, by universal consent, "The Holy Bible." It is therefore settled, by authority, that holiness or Christian perfection is the central idea of Christianity.

The Central Idea of Christianity (2nd edition 1867). Chapter 1.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection

In entire sanctification the Holy Spirit violates no law of mental philosophy, but strictly conforms His work to the nature and faculties of the mind. The stronger affection expels the weaker. Drop golden eagles plentifully in the paths of beggars scrambling for cents, and the awakened thirst for gold will cure the mania for copper. The superior banishes the inferior. It was Dr. Chalmers who eloquently discoursed on "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection." To expel all proneness to sin, all that is required is to inspire an unconquerable love of holiness, not in the abstract, but as embodied in a person in the sphere of the human affections, a person who by his self-sacrifice has laid in our minds a foundation for eternal gratitude. Then will this new affection instantly expel all base loves and keep them out so long as this new affection is enthroned within. Now it is the office of the Paraclete to inspire this affection. This He does by pouring light upon the person of the divine Christ, making Him a bright reality, a sun above the king of day, infinitely superior in splendors. This manifestation of Christ in the heart was an experience of Paul in addition to His revelation of Himself to the eye and the ear of the chief persecutor as he drew near to Damascus. The outward manifestation arrested his career of hostility to Christ; the inward revelation awakened an undying love, the motive power of that heroic course of labors, privations, perils and sufferings which ended when Rome's imperial axe severed his head from his body. During all this period, as Chrysostom says, "Paul had Christ speaking within himself." Thus by deep inward revelations, as well as by outward manifestations, was the great apostle prepared, as every preacher should be, for the work of the ministry. Well does Bengel argue that the Son of God must first be revealed in the preacher before He can be revealed by him. This revelation of Christ in Paul's consciousness was the sum and substance of that "excellency of knowledge of Jesus Christ, for whom he suffered the loss of all things." The time of this inward revelation of Christ by the Holy Spirit is unknown. The exegetes agree that it is not identical with Saul's vision of the risen Christ, and that it must have occurred afterward, either in Damascus, in Arabia, or after his return from that country, while sojourning in his native Tarsus.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 8.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Three Convictions of the Holy Spirit

"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 discussion of the three convictions which the Paraclete effects in men, especially men who are enlightened by gospel truth, shows in what way He glorifies the Son of God. The first question is, Why does He not glorify the Father? He does. If the Father and Son are one in nature, as the Son asserts (John xiv. 9), it follows that honors ascribed to the Son glorify the Father. "He that acknowledgeth the Son Hath the Father also" (I John ii. 23). There can be no jealousy between them, because they are one in divinity, and in their distinct personalities they aim at one purpose in the scheme of redemption.

The personality of the Son is much more easily grasped by men's narrow minds, because it is divested of that vagueness and abstract infinitude which belong to our conception of God. Hence, the Son's personality having been exhibited in a concrete form, within the limits of humanity, has become far more affecting and influential, when contemplated with all its historic incidents, lowly birth, poverty, youthful toil, kindly deeds, beneficent miracles, wise sayings, transparent parables, rejection by the Jews, arrest by the midnight mob, unjust condemnation, tragic execution and glorious resurrection. It is this historic setting of the Son's personality which the Holy Spirit can use with the best effect in producing conviction of sin. The only element which we have failed to enumerate needful for this result is assent to distinctive Christian truth, especially to Christ's claim of supreme divinity. Truth separate from a sense of the authority of God does not convict of sin and spiritually vitalize man's moral nature. Says Dr. Walker, "Conscience will enforce no moral duty unless it sees God in it." It will respond to no other voice than that of the moral Ruler and final Judge of all free moral agents. So long as Jesus was regarded as a man only, His preaching had meagre results in the number of His disciples. But after His supreme divinity was demonstrated by His conquest of death, ascension to heaven and effusion of the Holy Spirit, men were converted by the thousands in a day. Like causes produce like effects in every age. Wherever in dependence on the Spirit of truth the whole gospel is preached, including Christ's triumph over the grave in proof of His Godhead, unbelievers are convinced of sin, righteousness and judgment. But wherever Jesus Christ is presented as a model of moral excellence, but a mere man like ourselves, there is no conscience awakened to see the enormity of sin and to turn from it with a perfect loathing. Revivals can no more come from such preaching than orange groves can spring up and bear fruit among the glaciers of Alaska. Genuine conversions must be preceded by a painful sense of the enormity of sin, which comes only from the belief that Christ is the divine Savior. This belief, though not saving, is the necessary stepping-stone to that all-surrendering reliance on Him as both Savior and Lord which is the condition of salvation. It is not enough to know Him historically as the Son of man. He must be known as the Son of God. This knowledge flesh and blood cannot impart. "No man can say Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. xii. 3, Revised Version). This gracious ability to arrive at a belief in the supreme divinity of Christ is imparted to all candid readers of the entire New Testament who have a disposition to follow whither the truth may lead. It is not enough to read the first three Gospels. The sincere inquirer must proceed to the fourth if he would be convinced that the Son of man is also the Son of God, equal to the Father in power and glory. Then he will hear Him say, "All things (attributes) that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he (the Comforter) taketh of mine and shall declare it unto you" (John xvi. 15). Thus the Comforter glorified Christ by attesting His perfect power to save from the guilt of sin through faith in His blood shed as a conditional substitute for the punishment of sin.

Then the Comforter, as "the Spirit of adoption," glorifies Christ as the Savior by crying in the believer's heart, "Abba, Father." This inspired feeling of sonship is the gift of Christ. "But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name." Thus the three divine Persons are glorified in the new birth of a soul.

"With joy the Father doth approve
The fruit of His eternal love;
The Son looks down with joy and sees
The purchase of His agonies;
The Spirit takes delight to view
The contrite soul He forms anew;
And saints and angels join to sing
The growing empire of their King."

Again, the Paraclete glorifies Christ by inwardly revealing Him as the chief among ten thousand and the one altogether lovely. In that wonderful address respecting the coming and offices of His successor, another Comforter, in John xiv.-xvi., aptly styled the Trinitarian Discourse, Jesus says respecting every disciple who evinces the genuineness of his love by his obedience, "I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him." That this is not a spiritual phenomenon attending regeneration is evident from the fact that those whom Christ thus addressed were already regenerated. This is implied in His prayer in John xvil., appropriately called His high-priestly prayer: "They are thine. . . . They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Then He prays for a further work to be wrought in them: "Sanctify them through thy truth. . . . I sanctify (consecrate to the one work of redemption) myself, that they themselves may he truly sanctified." With respect to these two future events, Christ's manifestation to the believer and His sanctification, the inference is natural that the former is intimately connected with the latter as a means to an end. The manifestation is by the Holy Spirit, the representative of Christ, who does not manifest Himself, but magnifies, glorifies, deifies the personality of the Son of God, for whom He is cleansing the heart as the temple of His everlasting abode.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 8.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Spirit's Conviction of Judgement

"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

Judgment is the sanction of law. Since Jesus came not to destroy the law but to fill it full of meaning, His commission to the Paraclete must effect the same purpose to honor the law by declaring its sentence against sin. Says Tholuck:

The meaning of our Lord's words is, When the divine principle of the Spirit shall spread among my disciples and produce its extraordinary effects in mankind, people will be forced to confess that the power of the evil spirit which opposes me in the ungodly feelings of men is broken. By the incarnation and coming of the Savior an inward judgment was commenced in the hearts of men of which the last judgment is only the outward manifestation.

The atoning death of Christ declaring God's abhorrence of sin and His mercy to sinners was the defeat of Satan, the usurping ruler called "the god of this world." Christ Jesus through death conditionally emancipated every human soul from Satanic bondage, and thus "destroyed him who hath the power of death, that is, the devil."

But how can the casting out of "the prince of this world" demonstrate that every one who refuses to trust in Christ with true obedience and to seek justification through reliance on the atonement for sin made by Him will be found on the left hand of the Judge and hear his own condemnation pronounced in the last day? Our answer is this: All who take on the Satanic character, must expect the Satanic doom; all who bear the devil's image must share his destiny. So all who bear the likeness of Christ will share His glory. "After the while dilemma between sin and righteousness is clearly set forth, the Spirit finally announces the judgment of Satan in such a way that He not only comforts believers with the perfect comfort declared in Rom. viii. 33, 34, but also reproves unbelievers with that awful judgment, as a last sting, in their inmost hearts, Will ye then absolutely be and continue the devil's? Will ye be judged with him?" (Stier.) Satan is condemned now for our benefit if we yield to the Spirit's voice in our hearts and accept the righteousness which Christ provides and the Comforter inworks; or we abide with God's great adversary in the judgment if we continue in sin with the world. This third and last conviction of the Spirit clearly implies that in the estimation of the Spirit of truth the existence of the devil must needs belong to some fundamental article of saving truth without which we cannot correctly estimate the enormity of sin, the value of righteousness and the necessity of the atonement by which it was procured. In this third conviction the victory of righteousness over sin is completed. In this our salvation is infallibly secured if we but will it. The Spirit never coerces a free agent.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 8.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Conviction of Christ's Righteousness

"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's conviction of righteousness — His exhibition of a perfect model of righteous human character — was as necessary for the moral recovery of fallen men as the conviction of sin. By the dark picture of what the sinner is, must be suspended the bright ideal of what he ought to be. This ideal no fallen man is able, without the Spirit's aid, correctly to portray. He alone can photograph it upon the prepared tablet of the soul. Conviction of sin prepares the tablet. In the normal unfolding of the child there arises the ability to discover the distinction between right and wrong. But this moral sense is so drugged from childhood upward with the threefold opiates, selfishness, worldliness and fleshly-mindedness, that the soul has no conception of the high moral attainments for which it was created, and comes to look upon it as becoming and inevitable to desire sensual pleasures, to seek after them and indulge in them with only such limitation as self-love may suggest. The ordinary course of education in all pagan families, and in many homes nominally Christian, is such as tends more and more to inflame the worldly and fleshly stimulants of action, more and more to draw the youth out of quiet meditation into the race-course of intellectual emulation, athletic strife, business, competition, or the whirlpool of sensual pleasure. The world is full of false notions of honor and false estimates of interest. Hence the natural man knows nothing of a perfect attainable righteousness. Study the moral character of the pagan gods of the most cultured nations; for here, if anywhere, we may find among the gods worshiped by these nations an expression of their highest ideals of righteousness. But we find on Mount Olympus among the gods of Grecian and Roman mythology only deified lust, deified hatred, deified theft, deified jealousy and deified bloodthirstiness.

Nor is there anything in the best human philosophies in heathenism that can be safely held up as the pattern of perfect righteousness. Ignoring the fact that man at his climax reflects the image of his Creator, philosophy denudes Him of all the human virtues, piles up a lot of abstractions and negations powerless to purify and elevate human society, and then wonders that it is steadily sinking into the depths of hopeless moral degeneracy.

Study the pagan poets, their epics and tragedies, their satires and comedies, and their lyrics also, and you will no longer express your surprise at Plato's exclusion of the poet's from his ideal republic. Instead of delineating the portrait of spotless righteousness, they glorify human vices, and with all the splendors of genius they so adorn the contentions and debasing passions of men as to incite to their imitation.

Even in Christian lands some modern writers who reject Christ have gone back to paganism, and have raised from the dead the idea that might is right, a monstrous idea which was laid in its grave by Socrates more than twenty-two hundred years ago. But what is the Comforter's irrefutable proof of the perfect righteousness of Christ? He Himself answers, "Because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more." The world placed Him between two thieves; but God, who cannot err, has set Him between Himself and the Holy Spirit, far above all principality and power. Never was the righteousness of the world so contradicted as when He to whom Barabbas was preferred, was received by the Father amid the acclamations of all the holy orders of intelligences around His throne. The pure and perfect righteousness of Jesus is now forever vindicated. "Despised and rejected of men," yea, of all men, – for what the Jews, the best nation did, all other nations would have done, – He has been received and adored by all the heavenly world. This is a sufficient proof of His righteousness.

But how do we know that He has been thus received? It is true that no human eye saw Him after the cloud received Him from the sight of His upward-gazing disciples. It is also true that no angelic witness of the reception and coronation has come down to this world and made oath to this glorious fact. But a greater witness has come down, and is now testifying to every human conscience that Jesus sits enthroned with His Father. This testimony is twofold: first, in the inspired gospel record where the fact stands undisputed; and, secondly, in the heart of every hearer of the gospel, where the duty of penitent faith in Him is urged upon the conscience as the first and greatest duty. It may be that "the fulness of time" for which God waited before He "sent forth his Son" ( Gal. iv. 4 ) was the period required for the demonstration of the world's utter inability to originate those moral ideals which could turn men from sin to righteousness. He waited till the Greeks, the most aesthetic nation, had reached the perfection of art in painting, sculpture and architecture; till the greatest orators had uttered their matchless speeches; till the greatest poets had been laurel crowned; till the greatest philosophers had uttered their "divine peradventures," and till all the leading ethnic religions had set up moral monstrosities to be worshiped in their temples; till Greece amid the splendors of art was rotting in licentiousness, and till all-conquering Rome, on her seven hills burning the incense of her adoration to Might, was pouring contempt on all the passive virtues, meekness, patience, forgiveness and philanthropy. Then God permitted His well-beloved Son to unite Himself with humanity, to present to all men the perfect model of character, and to teach every man the duty of reproducing that sinless character in himself, Then, as a crowning gift, to render the gift of His Son available in the highest degree, He sent down the divine Paraclete to assist man's wandering eye to gaze steadfastly upon this divine and human model of holiness, and to steady his hand to copy the matchless beauties of that heavenly pattern. This was the second work of the Comforter, to convince the world of righteousness, because this too was a work which He alone could accomplish.

The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 7.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Possessed by Christ

Guest blog by Thomas Cook (1860-1913).

It is impossible to emphasize too strongly that Christ must do all in us, just as He has already done all for us. Not that He and we are to do the work between us. Salvation is of God from beginning to end. Well might we despair if the life of holiness depended upon human strength or resources, but all the difficulties vanish when God undertakes the work. The whole ground is covered by provision and promise. Because Christ died we have life, because His life is in us we are dead to sin. It is not simply that Christ took our death, we must take His life. We receive Christ into our hearts by faith, and we keep Him there by a faith which produces holiness

But some have Christ who are not entirely possessed by Christ. Instead of the unbroken blessedness which accompanies the perpetual realization of Christ's continuous abiding, so far as their consciousness is concerned, His visits are short and far between, and their fellowship broken and interrupted. The reason is they have never consecrated themselves fully to Christ. It is of no use for such to pray for more of God. God wants more of them. When the self-life expires Christ will possess us fully for Himself as naturally as air rushes into a vacuum. We create the vacuum by dethroning our idols. Nearly all the delay, difficulty, and danger lies at this point, unwillingness to fully surrender to Christ and to have no will of our own. Self can assert itself just as effectually in a little as in a great thing. It may be some very trifling thing that is exempted from the dominion of Christ — some preference, some indulgence, some humiliating duty, some association to be broken, or some adornment to be discarded, but never until self is crucified can we learn the full meaning of being Christ-possessed.

We must have empty hands to grasp a whole Christ. St. Paul could never have said, "I am crucified with Christ; it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me " (Alford), had self been still alive disputing with Christ the throne of the soul. Self had been nailed to the Cross, and Christ had taken the supreme place in his soul. Luther testifies to a very similar experience. "If any person knocks at the door of my heart and asks who lives here, I shall answer, Not Martin Luther, he died some time ago, Jesus Christ lives here." Just as where the self-seeking Jacob died the prevailing Israel was begotten, so from the ashes of our self-life shall come the prevailing life. It is only when the last entrenchment of self-will has been surrendered that there can be a complete resurrection unto life. But when we are ready to say, "There is nothing that would dishonor Christ that I will not forsake, nothing that would bring glory to Him which I will not render or perform; I will give myself and all I have into His hands for time and for eternity; I will follow Christ whithersoever He goes," Christ will not be long in taking full possession. With all His blessings He will enter our hearts, purging us from our evil, and so revealing Himself to our inner consciousness, that henceforth, in an unbroken line of deep calm receptiveness, we may possess, and know that we possess, an indwelling Saviour.

Do any of my readers say what those two on the way to Emmaus said to the Master, "Abide with us, abide with us?" His answer is already given, "This is My rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it, even in this poor heart of thine."

New Testament Holiness (2nd edition, 1903) Chapter 8.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christ Abiding in His People

Guest blog by Thomas Cook (1860-1913)

We are in the habit of saying that Christ saves us by His death on the cross. In an important sense this is true, but it is not the whole truth. We need Christ in us as much as we need His death for us. By a dependence upon that one great past act of Christ when He died on the cross we have forgiveness, but to be cleansed from indwelling sin and to live the overcoming life we must have Christ Himself dwelling within us as a present living Savior. It is only as we receive Him into our hearts, and in proportion as we submit to His possession and control, that the life of holiness is in any sense possible. But He offers to come to us in His person, and to become to each and all an indwelling life, which will literally reproduce in us His own purity, and enable us to live among men as He lived.

Christ speaks of Himself as abiding in His people, and of His life flowing through them as the life of the vine flows through the branches. As at the Transfiguration, where, through the thin veil of His humanity, His divinity burst forth, so is the life of holiness. It is simply the outshining of the Divine life which is within us. "Sanctity," says an old writer, "is nothing else than the life of Jesus Christ in man, whom it transforms, so to speak, by anticipation, making him to appear, even here below, in some measure what he shall be when the Lord shall come in glory." If Christ be in full possession of our hearts, it will not be long before we are doing in our poor way some of the beautiful things He would do if He were here Himself in bodily form. That He may reproduce His own life in ours is the great purpose of His indwelling, and this is the secret of holy living.

There is none holy but the Lord, and He will come and take up His abode in the center of our being, and thence purify the whole house through and through by the radiating power of His own blessed presence. As to the woman of Samaria, who asked that she might drink of the living water, the Savior promised that the well should be in her; so to us, not His gifts but Himself will He give. If we get the Bridegroom, we shall get His possessions. How superior in permanency is the Giver over the gift The latter may be evanescent, but the former comes to abide. "We will come," Christ said, including the Father with Himself, "and make our abode with him." This is something which the Old Testament saints never knew. God was with Abraham, Moses, and Elijah; but God now dwells within the humblest of His saints who sincerely receive Him. This is the mystery hid from ages and generations: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." This is "the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the wisdom which  none of the princes of this world knew." "Christ made unto us of God, wisdom, even righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." This is the great provision of the Gospel, a living personal Savior, Christ our life.

Heathen writers speak of virtue, which means to them the repression of evil; but of holiness — the outshining of Divine life — they know nothing. Christianity is the only religion in the world which teaches that God dwells within men, as certainly as of old the Shekinah dwelt in the most holy place. In His earthly life Christ said that the Father dwelt in Him so really that the words He spoke and the works He did were not His own, but His Father’s. And He desires to be in us as His Father was in Him, so thinking in our thoughts, and willing in our will, and working in our actions that we may be the channels through which He, hidden within, may pour Himself forth upon men, and that we may repeat in some small measure the life of Jesus on the earth.

New Testament Holiness (2nd edition 1903), Chapter 8.