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, December 20, 2016

Mallalieu: Holiness and Revival

Guest blog by Bishop W. L. Mallallieu (1828-1911):

The history of Methodism, and the history of the Christian Church in all ages, shows that the greatest spiritual results have been secured when the highest possible experience of Divine things has been taught and encouraged. When a holy ministry proclaims a free and full salvation, when professors of religion come to enjoy the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ there will ever be present the awakening, convicting, and converting grace of God. The combination of gospel truth and holy living must move the world, must convince gainsayers, and bring about pervasive and continuous revivals.

The cold-hearted, the indifferent, the backslidden, the worldly, the pleasure-loving professor of religion does not, and he can not while he remains in this condition, do what is demanded of him. First of all, the soul that would do the work which God has a right to expect, and which he does expect, must know that all the sins of the past are pardoned; he must know that he is fully justified; he must know that he is regenerated; he must know that he is adopted into the heavenly family; he must know that there has come to him the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire; that his heart is cleansed from all sin; that the enduement of power for all possible service is his; that he loves God with all his mind, might, and strength; that he loves his neighbor as himself; that he lives not for himself, but to benefit and bless his fellow-men and glorify God.

Remember that this experience is the privilege of every professor of religion; indeed, of every Church member and of every person who would be a child of God and an heir of the heavenly inheritance. It is not an experience that may be hoped for by only the select few, the cultured, the refined, the wealthy, the intellectual, the highly-favored, but rather it is for these, and also for the poorest, the humblest, the lowliest, the most obscure, those least esteemed of men, and those who most distrust themselves. It is for servants and handmaidens; for young men who see visions, and old men who dream dreams; for children and youth; for sons and daughters; for as many as the Lord our God shall call; and surely he calls every one who reads these words, or who shall ever read the all-including promises of God as found alike in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The experience may be attained; and, when attained, then one has the preparation requisite for the wise, right, and successful performance of all the work of God. This is the experience necessary for the private Christian. With it he will be salt and light; he will exert a precious influence whether at home or abroad, whether in the shop or store, or wherever he may toil for his daily bread. Every Church official, every local preacher, every Sunday-school worker, every Epworth League officer, every steward, every trustee, every class-leader, surely ought to have this blessed experience. These are in positions of honor and responsibility; their example will tell on all the membership, from the oldest to the youngest. If these could only have the fullness of the blessing of the gospel, how the Churches would thrive and grow, and how revivals would everywhere prevail; how converts would be multiplied; how the lambs of the flock would be fed and sheltered, and the coming of the King be hastened!

Surely every pastor, every one called to preach the gospel, every one having the care of precious souls for whom the Lord of Glory died, ought to have this experience. Nothing will answer for a substitute. If this be lacking, nothing can be found to supply its place. Eloquence, oratory, scholarship, dignity of behavior, faithfulness in the performance of routine duties, hard study in the preparation of sermons, vast intellectual attainments, wealth of resources, highest appointments, — all, all will be in vain without this precious, glorious experience. There may be large congregations, abundant salaries, elegant parsonages, and splendid churches; the multitudes may be pleased, flattered, and possibly instructed in many things; but sinners are not convicted, alarmed, and in penitence brought to Christ; nor are believers built up in the faith; men are not saved from their sins, and made meet for heaven, unless the pastor has this fullness of the gospel, or is earnestly seeking for it. How can any soul frame an excuse for not seeking and finding this experience? Surely not one can be found that will be valid in this world, much less at the judgment seat.

The experience is attainable by each and every one. The plan of redemption provides for this in every case. If it is not realized, it is not the fault of God. The conditions upon which it may be secured are possible to all. Why, O why, should any one hesitate to accept the gift God so freely offers?

Fields ripe for the harvest wave on every hand. The Master calls for reapers. He waits for willing souls. He will completely prepare and equip each toiler for his task. A heart cleansed from all sin, a soul filled with love to God and man, and the whole nature strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, and a quenchless longing for the salvation of the souls for whom Christ died, — all these being included in the experience of the fullness of the blessing of the gospel, and the preparation is complete for the performance of all the work that God expects from his children.

The centuries accumulate. It is almost nineteen hundred years since the Lord of life and glory left this redeemed world to take his place on the right hand of God the Father. With infinite love and unspeakable yearning he waits for the consummation of his toil, and suffering, and death. More than half of all the millions of earth have never heard the name of Jesus. They never will hear it, except from human lips. The disciples of Jesus must carry the gospel to all the nations. They can only do this effectively when they are fully saved themselves.

God grant that each one reading these words may have the experience, and then, by constant holy living, importunate, all-conquering prayer, and ever-faithful labors of love for perishing souls, prove to a wondering world its reality, sweetness, and power!

— edited from The Fullness of the Blessing of the Gospel of Christ (1903) Chapter 15.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Glorified With Jesus

"Father, that which thou hast given me, I will that, where I am, they also may be with me; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John xvii. 24 R.V.)

It is important to note that this high-priestly prayer was made only a few days before Jesus would ascend from the sepulcher to the throne of the universe. In his forecast of that hour he saw there would be one drawback to his supreme happiness, one void which all the hosts of heaven casting their crowns at his feet could not fill. The angels and archangels, the seraphim and cherubim cannot on that coronation day compensate for the absence of his human spiritual kindred who have suffered with him on the earth. They must be glorified with him. The redeemed ones, formerly the objects of his compassion, but now the objects of his complacent love and delight, must be near him, not on distant thrones made vacant by the fall of Lucifer and his rebellious host, but close to his side. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."

This tallest promise in God's book is a monument to the love of Christ to believers too high for my poor intellect to climb. The very thought makes my head swim. Whenever I read this promise I am inclined to say "O blessed Master, this honor is too great for me." It is indeed a "weight of glory" so heavy as almost to stagger my faith. Is there not some various reading of the manuscripts or some error in the English version? Are not these words a gloss, a marginal penciling of some enthusiastic monk of the Middle Ages, which has accidentally been copied by some honest transcriber? Did not the correct reading omit the words "he shall sit on my throne" and have instead "he shall kiss my feet"? I ransack my library and search all the critical editions of the Greek testament and the Variorum Bible and find no various reading or rendering. I will no longer doubt, but will accept with tears of joy this greatest promise ever sounded in the ears of mortals, or ever written in human language.

There is no hint in the Bible that any other order of spiritual intelligences are invited to share the throne of universal empire. This honor is reserved for the royal family, his human disciples, alone. Nevertheless there is a wonderful fitness and congruity in this consummation of their honor and happiness. It is appropriate that the blood relatives should share the dignity and glory when one of the family is inaugurated as a supreme ruler.

The mothers of two at least of our recent Presidents, Garfield and McKinley, were with them when their sons were inducted into the highest office on the earth. Brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, cousins and more distant kindred, fellow soldiers and schoolmates are not out of place as favored spectators in such a scene. Jesus Christ is a real man, not a semblance, a phantom, but a perfect man having a human soul and a material body. He is my brother, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. His glorification has refined and sublimated his body, not destroyed it. Son of man he was born; son of man he died; son of man he arose and ascended; son of man he will come in his glory to raise the dead, both the just and the unjust. Paul is careful to state to the astonished Athenians on Mars Hill that God will judge the world by a man, "that man whom he hath ordained." A man will forever sway the scepter of universal dominion.

— edited from Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 4.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Among Those For Whom Jesus Prayed

"Father, that which thou hast given me, I will that, where I am, they also may be with me; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John xvii. 24 R.V.)

Our text is a part of the high-priestly prayer of Jesus. It is its tenderest strain, revealing the human heart of the Son of God which he has carried with him "into the heavens," a heart magnetic with human sympathy and love. It always touches my heart; it dips a bucket into the deep fountain of my tears. Whenever I read this text it raises in me a flood of mingled emotions — astonishment at the condescending love of Christ for me, then love responsive to his self-sacrificing love, followed by an adoring gratitude to my divine benefactor.

It answers the question: What are the feelings of the Son of God crowned King of kings, sitting on his Father's throne and swaying his scepter of universal empire? Have I, an atom in the vast whole of the universe, escaped his special notice? Have I faded from his recognition, forgotten by him who is surrounded by "the helmed cherubim, the sworded seraphim," thrones, dominions, angels and archangels? In his exaltation has he dropped me out of his regard, me so distant while he is surrounded by majestic orders of spiritual intelligences so near, me so low in the scale of moral being in contrast with those who stand so high? What chance has one marred by depravity from his very birth and disfigured by sins whose scars are indelible blemishes, even after forgiveness, rendering him repulsive to the love of the sinless one who hateth iniquity? The text assures me of his continual regard for me, despite the hideous traces of my past sins. They are my card of invitation to be present at his public coronation and to share the glory of that hour which will stretch away into the countless ages of eternity.

Be it ever borne in mind that this prayer is only a specimen of that intercession which our High Priest above is ever silently presenting to his Father. That we might know the contents of that supplication which is poured out behind the drapery of the skies and beyond the hearing of ears of clay, Jesus rehearsed in the presence of his disciples that prayer which is to be the burden of his desire from the day of his ascension to the day of his descent to judge the quick and the dead. In this prayer Jesus remembers me. How do I know? In two ways: He prayed not only for those who had believed his words, but for many others then unborn. Hear him: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Including as he does believers in all future ages "he counts me in the whosoever."

But perhaps I am not one of those given by the Father to the Son as intimated in the text. I know that he prays for me and invites me to share his glory if I can convince myself that I am of the number of those who have been given by the Father to the Son. Who are they? There are two answers: first, that of the predestinarian, that a definite number — which cannot be increased nor diminished have been unconditionally elected to eternal life and their names are written in the secret will of God which he keeps locked up in his own bosom, a register on which no other eye can look till the day of judgment. But since the God whom we Arminians worship is no respecter of persons we cannot accept this exposition. Our second and better answer is that God has though the atonement bestowed upon all men the gracious ability to repent and perseveringly believe on his Son. As many as use this gracious ability and freely come to Christ by repentance and faith are said to he given to him by the Father. The first answer magnifies God's sovereignty, assuming that he can do so irrational an act as to make a choice without any reason. We are told that there is no arbitrary sovereignty in a choice which is dictated by reason. If we accept this doctrine, we must accept a limited atonement, irresistible grace, bound will, and the doctrine once in grace always in grace, or the final perseverance of the saints. These five points of Calvinism I can find neither in my reason, my conscience nor my Bible. It turns man into a machine and. God into a despot. The practical effect of this doctrine is distressing to contemplate. It leaves the believer in suspense respecting the gravest question, "Am I saved?" He can never consistently say, "Yes," since he is uncertain whether his name is on the secret register of the elect. Hence this doctrine hinders saving faith, obstructs the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and a clear assurance of acceptance with God.

But I find from the time of Pentecost all along through the New Testament that Christians are brimful and running over with joy, conscious of pardon, regeneration and sanctification. They have not only knowledge of forgiveness and knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, but they use a stronger word and speak of a full, certain, thorough, exact and perfect knowledge of spiritual realities. This experimental knowledge is in the Greek word ἐπίγνωσις (epignosis) frequently used by Paul and Peter after Pentecost, that great spiritual eye-opener. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to cry in the believer's heart, "Abba, Father!" inspiring an assurance of adoption. The first means by which the Father gives men to the Son is the law which is our schoolmaster, or rather the child leader, to bring us to Christ. In patrician families among the Romans a trusty slave was charged with the duties of a παιδαγωγός (paidagogos), who took the child by the hand and led him to school and placed him in the care of the teacher. From this custom Paul borrows the metaphor, "The law is our child-leader." The second agency by which a soul is given to Christ is "the convicting Spirit, who applies the law and awakens a sense of guilt and the wrath of God. He then reveals the mercy of God as administered through the atoning death of his Son. This heavenly monitor points the sinner first to mount Sinai to awaken a sense of need, and then to mount Calvary for the supply of that need. All whose wills assume the attitude of obedience toward God and trust in his Son as both Savior and Lord are given to Christ by the Father, who does not drag them but rather draws them with an attraction persuasive, but not by an irresistible and necessitating power overriding free agency. Hence the provision for the conditional salvation of all men having been made, the question who will make their election sure by repentance toward God and faith in his Son is determined by each individual will, says the Arminian interpreter of the Bible. The Calvinist declares that God determines who shall be saved. This doctrine necessarily implies that God also determines who shall be damned. Every coin has two faces, the obverse and the reverse. The reverse face of election is reprobation. The same misinterpreted scripture texts alleged in proof of the unconditional election of some prove the unconditional reprobation of the rest of mankind. This impeaches the moral attributes of God.

Those who freely receive Christ receive from him the privilege of becoming sons of God. These are led by the Spirit of God as his gift to the Son.

— edited from Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 4.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Faith Includes Obedience

The fact that genuine faith always includes obedience is a sufficient answer to the sceptic's objection that salvation is made to hinge upon a bare intellectual act, without reference to the character of the agent. It is just the opposite. It is an act of submission to the highest authority in the universe — an act which tends to conserve its moral order, by enthroning the moral law in universal supremacy. A singular confirmation of the truth of these remarks is found in the Greek Testament, where ἀπείθεια, unbelief, is frequently used to signify disobedience and obstinacy. The unbelief for which men are to be everlastingly condemned lies in the rebellious attitude of the will toward Jesus Christ, and not in any supposed innocent intellectual inability to believe the truth of God's word.

The practical bearing of all this upon those who are seeking to be lifted into the higher regions of Christian experience is, that the faith which is the required condition of such a spiritual uplift is possible only to a soul whose obedience has reached the point of entire surrender to the will of God, where there is a willingness to walk to Calvary with the fainting Christ, and to be crucified with Him. Then, and then only, will the Christ-life take the place of the old self-life, enabling the believer to adopt St. Paul's words: "I have been crucified with Christ; alive no longer am I, but alive is Christ within me." [Meyer] Let no one accuse Luther of boasting, when through "the obedience of faith" he reached that deadness to sin, and that conscious fullness of the divine life, which enabled him to say: "If any man knocks at the door of my breast, and says, Who lives here? my answer is, Jesus Christ lives here, not Martin Luther." The great reformer did not stumble into this Christian experience. To reach it he was often closeted with God three hours a day, studying the divine promises, and wrestling with the Lord, as Jacob with the angel. Says Spurgeon: "There is a point in grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling." Of such he says: "Their place is with the eagle in his eyrie, high aloft. They are rejoicing Christians, holy and devout men, doing service for the Master all over the world, and everywhere conquerors through Him that loved them." The mountain-top is a position men do not slide into but climb up to. Thus these mountain-top saints climbed up the ascent by the stairway of the gospel promises, with the sunlit summit in full view as a definite aim.

Their faith made their obedience spontaneous, free, and gladsome; while their conscious obedience reacted on their faith, making it strong and tenacious of the promise of Jesus: "If ye love Me, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever."

"The perfect way is hard to flesh;
It is not hard to love;
If thou wert sick for want of God,
How swiftly wouldst thou move!

"Then keep thy conscience sensitive;
No inward token miss:
And go where grace entices thee: —

Milestone Papers (1878) Part 1, Chapter 9.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Binney: The Value of the Bible

Guest blog by Amos Binney (1802-1878):

Even as a literary composition, the sacred Scriptures form the most remarkable book the world has ever seen. They are of all writings the most ancient, and contain a record of the deepest interest. The history of their influence is the history of civilization and progress. Scarcely can we fix our eyes upon a single passage in this wonderful book which has not afforded instruction or comfort to thousands. On this ground alone the Bible has strong claims upon our attentive and reverential regard.

Each Testament enhances the value of the other. As an evidence of the close connection of the two dispensations, and of the sanction given in the New Testament to the Old, the former has two hundred and sixty DIRECT QUOTATIONS from the latter, about one half of which give the sense rather than the exact words; and the allusions are even more numerous, being upwards of three hundred and fifty.

The two Testaments contain but one scheme of religion; neither part can be understood without the other. It has but one subject from the beginning to the end; but our view grows clearer by progressive revelation. The truths of God are, in themselves, incapable of progress, but not the revelation; the progress is not in the truth, but in the clearness and impressiveness with which the Scriptures unfold it.

There may be passages in them the full meaning of which is not discovered, and which are perhaps reserved to extinguish some future heresy, or some yet unformed doubt, or to prove, by fresh fulfillment of prophecy, that the Bible came from God . Scripture is like the deep sea, beautifully clear, but unfathomably profound. It seems to say to its millions of students, "My treasures shall never be exhausted; put me not to the rack, but question me incessantly."

The richest treasures of God's Word will not be discovered unless the Holy Spirit himself become the revealer. Psa. cxix, 18; Luke xxiv, 45; John xvi, 13; I Cor. ii, 9-16. The last reference contains, in the original, the words, "which the Holy Ghost teacheth, explaining spiritual things to spiritual men." It is by his light that we become sure of the truth of the Bible or of the true meaning of particular passages. John vii, 17; I Cor. ii, 13. The Interpreter, in whose house Bunyan's Pilgrim saw so many wonders, is the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Scripture interprets Scripture. There is not an obscure passage, containing any important truth, which is not elsewhere explained.

The harmony and perfection of the Holy Scriptures are rendered more peculiarly evident by the constant reference of all their writers to our Lord Jesus Christ. Take him out of the Sacred Oracles and they become a jargon of unintelligible and discordant voices. Luke xxiv, 27, 44; John i, 45; Acts iii, 20-24; x, 43; xiii, 23-37; xvii, 23.

The Holy Scriptures, indited under the influence of Him to whom all hearts are known and all events foreknown, are adapted to profit mankind in every way and for all time. Rom. xv, 4; I Cor. x, 11; 2 Tim. iii, 15-17. They will always lead human progress. The fairest productions of wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands and lose their fragrance; but these undying flowers of Divine truth become still more beautiful beneath our gaze, daily emitting fresh odors and yielding new sweets, which he who tastes will desire to taste again, and he who tastes oftenest will relish the most. Psa. i, 2; cxix, 11, 97; Job xxiii, 12; Jer. xv, 16. In this respect the Scriptures resemble the garden of Eden, in which is found every tree that is pleasant to the sight or good for spiritual food, including the Tree of Life, given for the healing of the nations. Prov. iii, 13-18; Rev. xxii, 2.

Little do those who neglect their Bibles think what refined delights they lose by this turning away their eyes from the most sublime and entrancing object of contemplation that the whole universe affords.

In a museum in Dresden, among many other gems and treasures, may be seen a silver egg, which, when you touch a spring, opens and reveals a golden yolk. Within this is hid a chicken, whose wing being pressed, it also flies open, disclosing a splendid golden crown studded with jewels. Nor is this all; another secret spring being touched, hidden in the center is found a magnificent diamond ring. So it is with every truth and promise of God's word — a treasure within a treasure. The more we examine it the richer it becomes. But how few, comparatively, care to touch the springs as did the Psalmist. Psa. cxix, 96-100.

— from Binney's Theological Compend Improved by Amos Binney & Daniel Steele (1875). Section I, Chapter 2.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Whedon: The Witness of the Spirit

Guest blog by Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885):

Where God performs directly the work of justification and of regeneration, is it not to be expected that he will as directly give notice of so wonderful a mercy? And this thought suggests the reasonableness of the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit, directly testifying to us that we are born of God.

The witness of our own spirit is that self-judgment which we are rationally able to pronounce, in the light of consciousness and Scripture, that we are the children of God. This is a logical inference, drawn from the fruits we find, by self-examination, in our minds and external conduct.

But besides this, is there not felt in every deep religious experience, a simple, firm assurance, like an intuition, by which we are made to feel calmly certain that all is blessedly right between God and our own soul? Does not this assurance seem to come into the heart as from some outer source? Does it not come as in answer to prayer, and in direction, as if from him to whom we pray? Scripture surely makes the assuring and witnessing act of the Spirit to be as immediate and direct as the justifying or regenerating acts. Hereby, then, we have the witness of God's Spirit, concurrent with the witness of our own spirit, testifying to the work of our justification and adoption. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." Rom. viii, 16.

— Daniel D. Whedon, "The Doctrines of Methodism" Bibliotheca Sacra, April, 1862.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A New Principle of Life

Regeneration is the lodgement by the Holy Spirit of the new principle of life. This is love to God, which is the ruling motive of every genuine Christian. There is a radical and an essential difference between those who are born again and the best of those who lay claim to only natural goodness, a beautiful moral character revolving around self as a center. 

 But the great transition from spiritual death to spiritual life does not make the child of God at once complete in holiness. The Holy Spirit in sanctification does not work magically, nor mechanically like a washing machine, but by the influence of grace, in accordance with the essential constitution of man, and in the way of a vital process, only by degrees completely renewing the soul.

— From: The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter XIV “The Spirit’s Work in Regeneration.”