The Religious Affections: Part I

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My thoughts (and quotes) from Part I

The first two pages speak about the role played by trials in the life of Christians. In trials, Edwards says, is:

  • Truth of true religion shown
  • Genuine beauty and loveliness of true religion evidenced
  • True religion purified and increased

In spite of trials and sufferings, the Christian’s life is full of the two affections of 1. Love to Christ and 2. Joy in Christ.

The meaning of ‘Affections’:

Jonathan Edwards defined his usage of the word ‘affections’ because he was using it in sense that was different from the natural usage of the term, although deriving its basic idea from the natural usage. For us today, it is doubly difficult, because we have to first adjust the natural meaning of the word before we can understand the spiritual sense.

For the most part, I could manage this reading by understanding the meaning of the word ‘affections’ as something akin to ’emotions’ of the heart. Thus these warm and holy affections stand side by side with the light of the understanding that is given by God. Both these together form true religion. The former is proof of the latter and distinguishes it from the cold knowledge that is present in many an unregenerate person.

The following quote about the two faculties of the soul is a bit complex and forms Edwards’ definition of the term.

God has endued the soul with two faculties:

  • one is that by which it is capable of perception and speculation, or by which it discerns, and views, and judges of things; which is called the understanding. (ability to view things as a neutral spectator)
  • The other faculty is that by which the soul . . . is some way inclined with respect to the things it views or considers; either is inclined to them or is disinclined and averse from them. . . This faculty is called by various names; it is sometimes called the inclination; (also called the will/mind or the heart/affections depending on the aspect under consideration)

10 points are listed, showing that true religion consists in good measure in the affections, and three inferences given.

The 10 points as I understood them are:

  1. True religion is not just in the “form of godliness” but rather in the power of godliness. Obviously this lies in the affections.
  2. Just as affections is the spring of the natural man’s aspirations, holy affections is the spring of a man of true religion.
  3. How far true religion has taken hold of men’s souls IS PROPORTIONAL TO how far true religion has affected the heart.
  4. Scripture places true religion in the affections—fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion, zeal.
  5. Whole religion = godly love + the light that shone from God to produce that love + the fruits of that love
  6. Examples in characters such as David, Paul, and John, whose religion was characterised by holy affections, especially love
  7. The example set by Jesus
  8. The religion of heaven comprises in affection
  9. The external acts of worship–prayer, singing, preaching, etc.—are all designed by God to affect our hearts and move us
  10. The opposite, irreligion, sin, imprudence, and darkness of mind is expressed in scripture as ‘hardness of heart

The 3 inferences as I understood them are:

  1. “As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding as well as an affected fervent heart; where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so, on the other hand where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light; that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things. If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.”
  2. We must read books, hear sermons, hear prayers, and sing songs that present and treat the things of God truly. These will necessarily move our hearts rightly and fill us with holy affections
  3. Shame on us for not using our affections in the matter that is man’s chief end. When God has redeemed us in such a tender way, ought we not to have been shaken to the very core of our being? Shame! “There (on Calvary) also the hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner possible: as we see the dreadful effects of them in what our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestation of God’s hatred of sin, and His wrath and justice in punishing it; as we see His justice in the strictness and inflexibleness of it; and His wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully punishing our sins in One who was infinitely dear to Him, and loving to us.”

[Tim Challies has a blog feature called Reading Classics, where he and many other online friends read a selected Christian classic in a synchronized way and share their views. The classic being studied currently is The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.]

Click here to get to other posts in this and Tim Challies’ blog

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