Intro

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, May 30, 2015

Did Paul Disobey the Spirit in Going to Jeruslem?

QUESTION: Did not Paul disobey the Holy Spirit by going up to Jerusalem against the warning of the Prophet Agabus, who came down from that city and warned him by word of mouth and by an impressive object lesson (Acts 21:10-14) that he would there be bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles?

ANSWER: The Holy Spirit did not forbid Paul's going, but loudly revealed the consequences, if he did go. It brought out the true heroism of the apostle to the Gentiles. He could have interpreted the warning as a permission to secure his own safety, in accordance with Christ's command, "when they persecute you in one city flee ye to another," a command which Paul several times obeyed. But he believed that it was God's will that he should go on even if it cost him his life. It was God's way of bringing him to Rome, where he and not Peter organized the church in the world's capital city.

Steele's Answers pp. 258, 259.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Could God Have Prevented Sin?

QUESTION: Could not God have refused to create the tree bearing forbidden fruit, and in this way have prevented the sin of Adam and Eve?

ANSWER: He could have refrained from such a creation, but in that case there would have been some other way of testing their obedience to their Creator. A test must consist in something which appeals to desire. The good-looking fruit appealed to appetite. It would have been too severe if there had not been a great variety of permitted fruit for their health and pleasure. Every free agent, without intelligence and experience, in attempting to find the line between right and wrong, will probably sooner or later find out by stepping over this fiery boundary and getting well scorched for his daring act. The liability of free agents to sin can be prevented only by suppressing their freedom and converting them into machines, i. e., by uncreating them. It is reasonable to suppose that out of all possible plans of a moral universe God selected that one which he foresaw would involve the least suffering. Therefore we should praise God for creating us with all our moral risks instead of censuring Him for the self-induced failure and suffering of as few perhaps relatively as the prisoners in our State prisons are to the entire population outside.

Steele's Answers p. 258.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Did God Forsee Sin?

QUESTION: Did God foresee that some men would sin and, refusing the Savior whom He provided, would be eternally punished?

ANSWER: A few good men, such as Bishop Wm. Taylor and Prof. McCabe, say God foreknows only the foreknowable; that the future moral acts of a free agent are not knowable. This would make prophecy impossible. Theologians almost all of them believe that God foreknew that some men would make themselves forever miserable. He could have avoided the misery by refraining from creating persons and by  being satisfied with a universe of things. This would be a dull universe without a single moral intelligence to commune with. God had from eternity just such a universe. I do not blame Him for preferring a chance with all the risks involved in the creation of free agents.

Steele's Answers p. 257.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What is the Sin Against the Holy Spirit?

QUESTION (1) What is the sin against the Holy Spirit? (2) Must a person have a Christian experience before he can commit the irremissible sin?

ANSWER: Some think it is the culmination of a long period of resistance to the Holy Spirit, a fixity of sinful character towards which all sinners are steadily drifting. When this point has been reached the Spirit abandons the soul (Isa. 63:10). Others say that the unpardonable sin is ascribing Christ's miracles to the devil, a sin which only those who lived when Christ was on the earth would be apt to commit. See Mark 3:29,30. Others think that when after a course of sin some aggravating insult is offered to the Spirit, most sensitive Person of the Trinity, then does he resent it with a justice that knows no mercy. A good illustration of this sin is this: There is a fatal disease for which there is but one cure. One finds the remedy; another compounds it, and the third applies it. Neither of the three will do the work of either of the others. If the sick man refuses to have the remedy applied, but trusts in a general way to the kindness of either of the others, he must die, though the supply of prepared medicine is ample. The same dreadful result would follow, if, because of some great insult to the third man, a philanthropic physician, he should decline to medicate the blasphemer. (2) He need not have been a Christian, though a Christian may commit this sin. (John 5:16.).

Steele's Answers pp. 256, 257.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Character of Solomon

QUESTION: Was Solomon a type of entire sanctification?

ANSWER: No. He was a very good young man, but in his middle age and down to the day of his death he was a worshiper of his many wives' idols. If there ever was a carnally minded man on the earth it must have been he who had 700 wives and 300 concubines, two new honeymoons a month all his married life of forty years; a pretty type of sanctification! Yet some have tried even to make out that he was a type of Christ! "There is every evidence," says Dr. A. Clarke, "that he died in his sins. His crimes were greatly aggravated; he forsook the Lord who had appeared to him twice. There is not a single testimony in the Old or New Testament that intimates that he died in a safe state." His father said in I Chron. 28:9, "If thou forsake the Lord, he will cast thee off forever," as if he had a premonition of his son's awful destiny. There is more hope of Judas, who tried to undo his sin. There is no proof that Solomon even tried to repent.

Steele's Answers pp. 255, 256.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Lodge Membership

QUESTION: Is it wrong, according to the Scriptures, to belong to a secret lodge?

ANSWER: I do not think it wise or expedient. I find no Scriptures specifically condemning it, unless it be this. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."

Steele's Answers p. 255.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Woman with Two Living Husbands

QUESTION: Can a woman having two living husbands be holy?

ANSWER: If she has procured a divorce from her first husband for a scriptural cause (adultery), she can be, as many interpreters of Christ's words teach. 

Steele's Answers p. 255.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Why Did Christ Not Know "That Day and That Hour"?

QUESTION: How can we reconcile Christ's ignorance of "that day and hour" with His Deity? See Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32.

ANSWER: The union of the Divine and human in Christ is more inexplicable than the union of soul and body, solely because it occurs but once and has no analogy. His humanity was neither infinite nor omniscient. He grew in stature and in wisdom. Hence while on the earth there were facts unknown to Him. Had there not been, we should doubt the reality of His humanity. His ignorance of the date of His second coming, or of the destruction of Jerusalem, was a part of His humiliation as the Redeemer of the world. 

Steele's Answers pp. 254, 255.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Changing the Sabbath

QUESTION: If the Lord Jesus wished to change the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first, why did he not himself do it?

ANSWER: The day before he died he said (John 16:12), "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. When the spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all the truth." Everybody will admit that the treatment of the Sabbath was the most ticklish subject Christ had to deal with in all his intercourse with the Jews. Again and again did he rebuke their impracticable misconceptions, making it the most dreaded, distressing and awful day of the seven. If he had desired to divest it of the severities with which it was loaded down, he could not have done it without changing the day; and he could not change the day without breaking down the confidence of everyone of his apostles and disciples. Hence he left it for the Holy Spirit to teach, who did thus teach so that they immediately began to keep the first day. (John 20:19, 26; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2; John 1:10, on the Dominical Day, i. e., Sunday). As the result the whole Christian world, except a little handful, keeps the first day. To cure this handful get them to go eastward round the world, and when they get home they will all be keeping the first day, having gained a day. Perhaps Carnegie or Rockefeller can be persuaded to pay the bills in order to rid the Christian world of this senseless clamor against it of a few discordant voices.

Steele's Answers pp. 253, 254.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Unjust Steward

QUESTION: How could the Lord, in Luke 16:8, commend the unjust steward who had perpetrated a series of frauds?

ANSWER: Note that the word lord does not begin with a capital, which always is the case when Jesus is spoken of. Note, that in the Revision it is "his lord." This makes it still more plain that it refers to the master of the steward, whose acuteness and forethought in feathering his own future nest, and not his rascally way of doing it, his master praised, probably with a laugh, exclaiming, "Isn't he a cute fellow?" Another explanation is that the steward had overcharged the tenants and pocketed the surplus; so that marking down of the debts of the tenants was really a righting of fraud against them. In this case the master was not the loser. In either case he was a bad man. But his cunning, not his rascality, is approved.

Steele's Answers pp. 252, 253.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Flesh

QUESTION: I am much perplexed by the different meanings of "flesh" in the N.T. Can you not give some light on this subject which will simplify matters?

ANSWER: The use of one word with several meanings is because there are more ideas than words in any language. It will help you to know that "flesh" has the signification of sinfulness only in Paul's epistles, who sometimes uses it in a good sense, as when he says "the life that I live in the flesh," meaning his body. Outside of Paul's epistles it means either the living tissue covering the bones, or the body as a whole, or all men when "all flesh" occurs. Paul does not use it as a synonym for sin, but as "proneness to sin," usually to sensuality, but sometimes it includes sins which are independent of the body; such as pride and malice. "Flesh" in the Gospels is not used in the moral sense, but in the physical, as in John 8:4, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh."

Steele's Answers p. 252.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Titles of the Followers of Christ

QUESTION: What are the different titles given to the followers of Christ in the New Testament?

ANSWER: (1) "Christians." They were so called first by outsiders, then afterwards by themselves. Hence it is used only in Acts 11:26, 26:28 and I Pet. 4:16. (2) Disciples, answering to Master or Teacher. It was borrowed from the Jewish schools. Once, in Acts 19:1, those who had received only John's baptism are called disciples. (3) "Brethren." This was the first title given to Christians after the ascension (Acts 1:15, R. V.). It occurs twenty times afterwards in the same book. (4) The title "saints" (the holy) denoting the consecration and initial sanctification of believers. It is Paul's favorite term, being found thirty-one times in his epistles. John uses it only in the Revelation, and Jude only once. 

Steele's Answers pp. 251, 252.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Desire and Sin - James 1:14

QUESTION: Explain James 1:14, "Every one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed." (2) Show the relation of thought to sin.

ANSWER: Lust is not a bad word in the Greek. It is often simple desire. It derives its evil meaning from the bad object to which it is "drawn out," which is a better translation than "drawn away." Lust has conceived when it moves the will to the evil purpose. The sin lies at this point, even before it becomes an outward act. (2) The thought of imagination of a sin is not sin, but rather it is the fuel of sin. It takes a volition to create a fire, a sin. It is the safest way to have in the mind as little fuel of sin as possible, to think as little as possible about the pleasure of sin. It is true that we cannot control the succession of our thoughts. But we can generally arrest the course of thought and turn it into another channel and keep the thinking of evil from becoming a habit. The adage is, "We cannot prevent birds fiying over our heads, but we can prevent their building their nests in our hair."

Steele's Answers pp. 250, 251.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Supernatural Fire

QUESTION: In Lev. 10:2 we read, "and a fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." What authority is there for stating that they were killed by lightning?

ANSWER: Only a few minutes before this (9:24) "fire from before the Lord had consumed the sacrifice." It is quite certain that both fires were supernatural, for they are both spoken of in the same terms. The one consumed the burnt offering in token of the sacred nearness, and the other devoured the blasphemers as if they had been carrion.

Steele's Answers p. 250.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Jesus' Brothers and Sisters

QUESTION: Did Mary, the mother of Christ, have other children after Jesus, or are James, Joses, Judas, Simon and their sisters, of whom Jesus is called "brother" in Mark 6:3, cousins of Jesus, as some say?

ANSWER: The Papists, in their attempt to prove the perpetual virginity of Mary, insist that "brother" means cousin, and that "firstborn" in Matt. 1:25 is a spurious reading. Dean Alford well says: "No one would ever have thought of interpreting this verse any otherwise than its prima facie meaning, except to force it into accordance with a preconceived notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary." Other Romanists, finding it very difficult to prove that the brothers and sisters are cousins, try to prove that they are Joseph's children by a former marriage!

Steele's Answers pp. 249, 250.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When Did Christ Fulfill the Law?

QUESTION: When did Christ fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17); was it at at his resurrection?

ANSWER: The Law was threefold, ceremonial, political, and moral. The first two parts were fully accomplished and ceased to be obligatory, when Christ died. But the moral law was conformed by Christ's obedience and atonement, and by the inspiration of love to the Law-giver he potentially perfected the obedience of those who believe in Him; i e., He made it possible for his saints perfectly to keep the law by perfectly loving Him, the revelation of God. Moreover, he deepened the requirement of  the law, going back of the act to the motive, to the impure look and to hatred, the essence of murder.

Steele's Answers p. 249.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Making Friends by Mammon

QUESTION: What is meant by Luke 16:9, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness"?

ANSWER: Read the Revision, "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness," i. e., by the charitable use of money wisely bestowed upon those starving for material bread or for the bread of life, who, having gone to heaven before you, will be at the gate to welcome you to the eternal tabernacles.

Steele's Answers p. 249.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Where the Spirit is, There is the Church

The maxim of Protestantism of the low-church, nonritualistic type is this, "Where the Spirit is, there is the Church": The maxim of the Papist and sacramentarian is, "Where the Church is, there is the Spirit." In the first case the Spirit creates the Church; in the other the Church professedly insures the presence of the Spirit. But He dwells only in hearts, not in sacraments or in organizations. Hence no organization, however apostolic its history and successive in its ordinations, can secure the Holy Spirit. Paul exhorts believers "earnestly to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit (the oneness which He brings about) in (or within) the bond of peace," i. e., the bond by which peace is conserved, which is love. As Christ came to establish peace on earth, so the Holy Ghost, "another Comforter," came to execute Christ's purpose, not by treaties formed by diplomats, but by "shedding abroad the love of God" in the hearts of men. Says Chrysostom, "The Spirit unites those who are widely sundered by nationality and different manners."

George Bowen writes:



We profess to desire earnestly the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but we shall do well to note that one of the first things which the Holy Spirit will aim to produce in us will be this Christlike love to the brethren. How many brethren in Christ are now effectively separated from you by a high wall of social position, a wall of conventionality that has been reared by Christian pride? Were Christ's mysterious and unfathomable love to them to find its way, perchance, into your heart, how it would laugh at the huge hindrance of this wall, and by a breath cause it to dissolve into the ambient air! This is no hypothesis. In lands where the Spirit of God is poured out we are told of the sudden and beautiful flowing together of social streams that have flowed separately on for generations. Love like that which Jesus manifested to the Samaritan woman and to the woman who was a sinner, has now found new exhibitions of itself.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 20.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Two Kinds of Church Unity

In His high-priestly prayer (John xvii.) Jesus prays for His disciples, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." There are two kinds of church unity – mechanical like the staves of a barrel held together by the external pressure of hoops; and vital, like the roots, trunk and branches of a tree unified by the mysterious inward force which we call life. For which of these did Jesus pray? We find our answer in these words which He had just uttered, "I am the true vine" (John xv. 1). He prayed for vital unity, the only oneness worth praying for. This is infinitely superior to that illusory thing after which many are striving, a church unity through an exterior governmental uniformity. Partisan unity is a good machine for developing political power, but it cannot be used by the great unifier, the Giver and Lord of life, the Holy Spirit. It is He who unites all regenerate souls to Christ, and hence to one another, by His creative and vitalizing touch, drawing all into a marvelous oneness, "a oneness spiritually organic, in which each personality, while quite exempt from invasion, falls under the power of a divine cohesion whose results in spiritual harmony of life and action will develop forever." (Moule.) The invisible church is always one body, of which the risen Christ is the Head. It would be a pleasant thing to have the invisible exactly commensurate with the visible containing all the members of the invisible church and no others. But under the present dispensation this can never be, because the doorkeeper of the invisible is the heart-knowing Spirit, and the doorkeepers of the visible Church are fallible men. This is hinted at very strongly by Christ in the parable of the tares and the wheat growing together until the harvest. He evidently had in mind the visible Church, also, when He compared the kingdom of heaven to "a drag-net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; . . . and they gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away" (Matt. xiii. 47). Such an instrument the Holy Spirit does not use. He takes the fish individually one by one; and no sorting is required. There is no discount of His results.

There can be no substitute for the Spirit in producing that unity which will endure all the changes and adversities of life, which will gain the approval of God as realizing His ideal of the Church, and which will savingly influence the world in answer to Christ's prayer for the oneness of all His disciples, "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." This was the power which conquered the unbelief of the persecutors of the primitive Church. "Behold how these Christians love one another!" This love did not arise from similar intellectual tastes, nor from assent to the same creed, but from the indwelling in their hearts of the same Holy Spirit inciting to mutual love. When love declines through a relaxation of faith and the uprising of selfishness because of the withdrawal of the Spirit from His conscious indwelling, divisions, parties, cliques and sects arise. When we walk along the shore of the sea we observe pools here and there with their inhabitants separated from each other by rocks and stretches of sand, preventing communication between them. This is because the tide is out. But when it again rises and floods the beach the separate pools are swallowed up in the one great ocean. When the Spirit pours floods upon the dry grounds, self is submerged and Christian unity is restored.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 20.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Altitudes Where Christians See Eye to Eye

Above the mists there are altitudes of Christian experience where believers see eye to eye. Intellectual differences which once stood between them like impassable mountains now seem to their downward gaze like molehills. It is possible to dwell amid the Alpine sublimities of truth so long as to drop our small measuring rods and to acquire larger ones commensurate with the grandeurs about us. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to lift aspiring believers to such Pisgah heights as Paul was familiar with when he prayed that the Ephesians "might be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and heighth and depth, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God." Wherever this prayer is answered there will be Christian unity.

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

Trifles will not unhinge and divide a company of such believers.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 20.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Does the Fullness of the Spirit Divide?

It is alleged by some that the fulness of the Holy Spirit received by faith in Christ's Pentecostal promise does not unite, but rather divides local churches. This is not true where the entire membership receive their full heritage. The members of such churches are welded together in the closest possible unity, such as extorted admiration even from persecutors. "Behold how these Christians love one another." Such a church is indeed a spiritual brotherhood.

"One with our brethren here in love,
And one with saints that are at rest,
And one with angel hosts above,
And one with God forever blest."

But where part of a church are only nominal Christians, baptized worldlings, who either never knew the Lord Jesus as their Saviour or have fallen from grace, there arises a division, caused not by the Holy Ghost, but by those professors who resist Him in His work of purification. This is what Christ Himself predicted. The founder of Christianity, in putting down the kingdom of Satan whose works He came to destroy, brought disturbance and division to every family, every synagogue, every city and every social organization, a part of whose members rejected Him while a part received Him as both Savior and Lord. Real living Christianity is always a disturber of worldliness and sin, bringing a sword on the earth.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 20.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How the Sects of Christianity Can Remain United

The various sects which divide the Christian world can keep the unity of the Spirit and dwell in peace so long as they are filled with true charity. How can this fulness be insured? Can we originate Christian love? Can we love at will? No. But having in the divine promises a sufficient ground for faith in Jesus Christ, we may ask for the presence of the Comforter in our hearts, whose office it is "to shed abroad the love of God," which is always attended by love to all who bear His natural image, and especially to all who bear His moral image restored by the new birth. Here is the real basis of Christian unity. It is spiritual and not ecclesiastical; not theological beyond the basal truths of orthodoxy; not sacramental and ceremonial. The manner and significance of water baptism, the Lord's Supper and the number and gradation of ordinations should be regarded as in the sphere of liberty. Is God revealed in His divine Son, Jesus Christ, the only Savior, and does He communicate Himself to believers in the personal Holy Spirit, the only Sanctifier? This is a doctrinal basis sufficient for the unity of all Christians. It is not possible to dwell in Christian unity with those who deny these fundamentals. They do not dwell in the same sphere with us, since they disclaim belief in the offices of the personal Holy Spirit and disbelieve in the Godhead of Jesus Christ, through whom we receive the Paraclete, who implants regenerating love and perfects sanctifying love, the element of Christian unity. Yet we should, without regard to religious belief, co-operate with all good citizens to abate and abolish evils which prey upon society, to enlighten the ignorant, to lift up the fallen and to remove snares from the feet of the tempted. While we believe that society can be most effectively regenerated by regenerating the individual, we should, while applying the truth to secure this end, cherish and express a lively sympathy with all who, though they "follow not us," are trying to cast out devils in the name of Jesus regarded as a mere religious teacher and reformer. They are, so far as the moral well-being of society is concerned, our allies in the great battle with the hosts of the evil one, though they are fighting with bows and arrows when they might be firing Remington rifles. But it must be borne in mind that Christian unity, as Dean Alford well says, "is conditioned and limited by the truth; and is not to be extended to those who are enemies and impugners of the truth;" who reject the real Christ and preach a phantom Jesus, and whose morals are as corrupt as their faith is false. To have fellowship with such a man is "to be a partaker of his evil deeds" (II John ix. 11).

— from The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 20.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Unity of the Spirit

"Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3 KJV.)

The apostle Paul beseeches the Ephesian church to be diligent, to be constantly keeping that essential unity which the personal Holy Spirit originates in the true Church of Christ. The element of principle in which this oneness is maintained is peace, "the bond of peace." The exhortation to diligence implies that in keeping this unity human agency must be vigorously applied. Why cannot the Holy Spirit alone continue that unity of which He is the sole author? We answer, that [where] there is an obedient will He could preserve that concord which He has produced, if it were the province of the divine Spirit to assimilate intellects as well as hearts. Grace does not harmonize divergent reasons and conflicting judgments. We are to think and let think, and accept the honest conclusion within the limits of Christian orthodoxy. We must within this sphere agree to disagree, as did John Wesley and George Whitefield on the five points of Calvinism, while still loving each other. The hearts of Barnabas and Paul were united while a practical question on which they differed made it expedient for them to labor for a season in different fields. The diligent endeavor which Paul urges the Ephesians to make is to be directed against magnifying differences of opinion on minor questions into causes of heart alienation. It requires constant effort to keep this threefold maxim:

"In non-essentials liberty;
In essentials unity;
In all things charity."

— from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 20.

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.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Conscience and the Work of Sanctification

It is interesting and instructive to note the relation of the Holy Spirit to conscience in the work of regeneration and sanctification. If man was created to be a temple of God, his spirit must be the holy of holies in which He dwells, and his conscience must be the Ark of the Covenant which carries His law. Sin defiled that sacred ark and rendered it offensive to the holy God. The scheme of redemption must have direct reference to the purification of the conscience. The writer to the Hebrews intimates that Mosaism "did not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience" ix. 9), and he exhorts the believer to "draw near, having his heart sprinkled from an evil (guilty) conscience" (x. 22). The conscience, relieved of guilt through faith in the atonement made by Christ, and ever after prompting to a life of obedience, is the spiritual organ in which the Holy Spirit evermore dwells, keeping watchful guard over the living law in the heart and constantly witnessing to the persevering believer that he is a child of God. Peace, the fruit of the Spirit, can dwell only with a "conscience void of offence." Holiness, the work of the Spirit, is also attested by conscience. "For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience that in holiness we behaved ourselves," etc. (II Corinthians i. 12, Revised Version).

— from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 19.



Friday, May 1, 2015

The Holy Spirit and Conscience

Prof. Whewell, in his "Moral Philosophy," asserts that every human volition expressive of a choice has a moral character which would be perceived by our moral sense were it sufficiently keen. This is a declaration that there are no acts morally indifferent, styled by the Greeks adiaphora, such as the choice of the color of a necktie, the length of an overcoat, or the kind of food I may order for my dinner at a restaurant. Most of us are so morally obtuse as to see no ethical quality in these choices, and are disposed to call him morbid and impractical who finds moral obligations in the selection of shoestrings. But we may be doing injustice to those rare consciences which have attained a more subtle moral discrimination than the multitude who laugh at scruples which they cannot appreciate. For it is possible that culture may impart such an insight into the tendencies of apparent trifles as to discern a disastrous moral outcome in the long run.

Paul asserts his love for the Hebrew nation, his "kinsmen according to the flesh," declaring that his conscience was "bearing him witness in the Holy Ghost." This strong asseveration implies an intimate relation between the Spirit and conscience. We may not be able to give a full and accurate statement of this relation. Among the self-evident truths with which the human mind is originally furnished is the distinction between right and wrong. The power to discover this distinction inheres in every sane mind. On questions relating to immutable morality all such minds agree in their decisions. Such questions are few, and theoretical rather than practical. They are not modified by circumstances. They are such as these: Is it right to hate a benefactor? Is it right to punish the innocent? Is it right to reward the guilty? Is it right to intend injustice to a fellow man? Is it right to violate my own sense of right? to dishonor a parent? to commit adultery? There can be but one answer to these questions. They are addressed to the intuitive sense of right and not to the understanding or practical judgment which modifies the decision. But when we ask the question, Is this accused man worthy of punishment? we have now to exercise our judgment and go through a course of reasoning before we can decide, and two perfectly conscientious persons may disagree in their verdict, because we are now in the region of mutable morality. Most of the moral questions in daily life are of this character. It is not enough to know that one man has killed another. I must take into account the circumstances, whether it was in self-defense when attacked by a robber, or a burglar by night was shot in the act of breaking into the dwelling. This sufficiently illustrates mutable morality.

I can but think that the philosophy of Lotze and others is true, that all the self-evident truths are in the last analysis the activity of the immanent God in the human spirit. Hence the moral intuitions, immutable and invariable, are the voice of the divine Spirit immanent in all men, irrespective of regeneration and the gracious indwelling of the Spirit. There is a sense in which the Spirit of God is upholding nature. Men are not conscious of this immanent substratum of their being. But when the Holy Spirit, as a gracious gift, is bestowed upon the believer, he is conscious of His presence within as was Paul. The effect is manifest not so much in the increase of the power of moral discrimination, though it does clarify the moral perceptions, as in the marvelous addition to the power that impels toward righteousness. For the conscience has a threefold power discrimination, impulse toward the right, and, after the act, approval or disapproval, according as the act is right or wrong. The gracious work of the Holy Spirit intensifies each of these functions, the second more manifestly than the first, and the third more than the second.

What effect does the fulness of the Spirit have in the decisions of practical questions in the province of mutable morality? We answer, it does not prevent errors in judgment and fallacies in logic. The Holy Spirit renders no one infallible in such matters. Yet He indirectly helps us by delivering us from the dominance of appetites and passions inimical to clearness of intellect and calmness of judgment. By inspiring in our hearts love to our neighbor as to ourselves, He strongly incites us to do perfect justice to him in our decision of questions involving his rights. Still the best of men and women who love God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves, may go astray in judgment without a loss of love. Hence, in applying their intellects to the construction of systems of theology, some have founded Calvinism with its five points, unconditional election, a limited atonement, irresistible grace, bound will, and the final perseverance of the saints; and others equally devout and scholarly have constructed Arminianism with its universal atonement conditionally applied, the free will, entire sanctification possible before death, and the peril of a total apostasy from the highest state of grace. George Whitefield preached the first of these doctrines and John Wesley the last. Both were filled with the Spirit and were burning as bright candies of the Lord. Both were used by the Spirit to preach the saving truths of the gospel in such a way as to save multitudes of souls.

— edited from The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 19.