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.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Safeguards Against a Fanatical Conscience

This is the place to set up safety guards against the danger of a fanatical conscience, which is sometimes associated with extreme and erroneous views respecting the guidance of the Spirit. We lay down the following principles:

  • The Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart does not supersede the activity of our own reason, judgment and moral sense in the decision of practical questions.
  • While the Holy Spirit's testimony to the fact of adoption, including pardon, is direct and infallible when corroborated by the fruit of the Spirit, His guidance in the conduct of life is not designed to be sole and infallible, but in connection with the inspired Word, our own common sense, divine Providences and the godly judgment of Christian people.
  • No guidance is of the Holy Spirit which collides with the Bible inspired by the Spirit. In such collision the Holy Scriptures must be followed in preference to the supposed leading of the Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit, so named because it is His office to create and conserve holiness, never leads into sin, nor to doctrines which belittle sin by denying its exceeding sinfulness and its desert of eternal punishment, or by weakening the motives to repentance.
  • It being the office of the Spirit to glorify Christ, no teaching that disparages His divinity as the only Savior can come from the Spirit.
  • It being the work of the Spirit to regenerate and to sanctify, the declaration of any substitute for the new birth and holiness cannot be approved by the Spirit of truth, much less can be inspired by Him.
  • In practical matters, the province of mutable morality, where fallible intellectual processes are involved and erroneous conclusions are possible, it is a species of fanaticism to ascribe such conclusion to the Holy Spirit.

There are two classes of people with whom pastors of churches have difficulty. The first consists of those who consider conscience as infallible beyond the sphere of motives, dispositions and principles, and insist on infallibility in all practical questions, the realm of mutable ethics. They demand that the decisions of the intellect in respect to all moral subjects should be regarded as always right and clothed with the authority of intuitive judgments. Just here is found a fruitful source of most dangerous self-deception and of fanaticism in its various forms and degrees.

The second class includes those who make an analogous mistake in respect to the Holy Spirit. They insist that His infallibility, evinced in His direct witness to adoption, be carried into all questions of every-day life, questions involving intellectual research and the practical reason.

These erroneous claims respecting conscience and the Holy Spirit put these two classes beyond the reach of argument, persuasion and advice. If members of the church, they inevitably become dictatorial, censorious and schismatic.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 19.

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