The Religious Affections: Part III (Point 6)

Standard

My thoughts (and quotes) from the sixth point of Part III

[vi] Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation

[In other words, a truly saved person has a true and godly humility]

According to Edwards, humility can be of two types: Evangelical humility and Legal humility. Edwards places both these types of humility side by side as he strives to explain the many subtle ways in which they are different. I have compiled the salient points of both separately with the points numbered so the two types can be compared if required.

Evangelical Humility

  • a. This is peculiar to true saints in whom is at work the special supernatural and divine influences of the Holy Spirit.
  • b. The Christian has a sense of his utter insufficiency, despicableness, and odiousness
  • c. The person has discovered the beauty of God’s holiness and moral perfection and sees his own odiousness in stark contrast–that they are little and nothing before the great and terrible God, and that they are undone, and wholly insufficient to help themselves
  • d. Such a person has an answerable frame of heart, to abase himself, and exalt God alone.
  • e. He is brought sweetly to yield, and freely and with delight to prostrate themselves at the feet of God.
  • g. The scriptures describe this as: broken heart, contrite spirit, the lowly, humble spirit, trembleth at my word, walk humbly with thy God, poor in spirit, become as little children,
  • h. Examples of such a spirit:
    • A woman in the city, which was a sinner . . . who wept and began to wash His feet with tears . . .
    • The woman of Canaan who submitted to Christ in His saying, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs.”
    • The prodigal son who said that he was no more worthy to be called his Father’s son . . .
    • The publican, standing afar off . . . saying “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
  • i. Such a one distances himself from the world and empties himself of dignity and glory, by the vigour of a lowly spirit within them.
  • m. He is apt to think his attainments in religion to be insignificant and to esteem himself low among the saints . . .
  • n. It is not natural to them to think that it belongs to them to teach, but to be taught; they are much more the eager to hear, and to receive instruction from others, than to dictate to others.
  • o. He thinks that every saint’s attainments and experiences are higher than his
  • p. It is his nature to look upon his goodness little and his deformity great. It is clear to him that it is his obligation to be holy and he sees infinite reason to be holy. He also sees that he is far from the standard of holiness that he ought to have and so his current level of holiness does not hold any beauty or satisfaction for him. Yes, the highest love that ever any attain in this life, is poor, cold, exceedingly low, and not worthy to be named in comparison of what our obligations appear to be. This is on account of:

    • The wonder of what God has done for us
    • The ability of our minds and hearts to love Him.
  • q. Grace illuminates. He who has much grace apprehends much more than others and the great height to which his love ought to ascend; and he sees better than others how little a way he has risen towards that height. And when he estimates his love by the whole height of his duty, it appears astonishingly little and low in his eyes.

    The saint who has such a conviction of the high degree in which he ought to love God is shown:

    • The littleness of his grace and
    • The greatness of his remaining corruption
  • s. The least sin against an infinite God has an infinite hatefulness or deformity in it; but the highest degree of holiness in a creature has not an infinite loveliness in it.
  • t. God is infinitely and worthy to be honoured. We fail in our duty to honour him, and so our love has in it infinite iniquity, deformity, and unworthiness.
  • u. The more he grows in grace, the more his holiness and love appear to him like a drop in the ocean and negligible.
  • v. Edwards does not mean to say that the saints on earth have a bad opinion about themselves. They just see clearly. They can compare the liveliness of grace in their lives at different times. They can also compare their current condition to how they were some hears earlier, and see that they have become better.
    If at some time, he sees clearly that he is doing better spiritually than others, he does not remember this long, it is not a big matter with him, and he does not act on this knowledge. All true spiritual knowledge is such that, the more a person has of it, the more he is sensible of his own ignorance.
    Then how does the psalmist say: “I have more understanding than all my teachers . . . I understand more than the ancients; because I have kept thy precepts.”

    • David says these things under inspiration of God
    • David did in fact write about the Messaih, things that those before him did not know.
  • w. True humility clearly sees why one has but to be humble. It is hard for a great man to bend down and untie the shoes of another. But it is no problem for a servant to do so. So too a godly man who does not think highly of himself finds it easy.
  • x. Lets say:
    -man A, with no grace thinks of his true worth at level X
    -man B, with grace thinks of his proper place at level Z

    -If their actual level, brought to by God is at level Y
    -Then
    -p is man A’s conception of his humility
    -q is man B’s conception of his pride
    Those who are greatly convinced of sin are not apt to think themselves greatly convinced.
    . . . but he that is truly and eminently humble never thinks his humility great. The cause why he should be abased appears so great, and the abasement of the frame of his heart so greatly short of it, that he takes much more notice of his pride than his humility.
    . . . those who are greatly convinced of sin, are not apt to think of themselves greatly convinced.
    . . . All his graces and experiences are ready to appear to him to be comparatively small, but especially his humility. . .
    He is a thousand times more quicksighted to discern his pride than his humility.
  • y. A truly humble person has a mean opinion of his righteousness and holiness,  . . . he is poor in spirit . . .is of an answerable disposition . . . behaves himself in many respects as a poor man . . . not disposed to quick and high resentment . . . apt to yield to others . . . not stiff and self willed . . . patient with hard fare . . . expects no other than to be despised . . . takes it patiently . . . does not take it heinously that he is overlooked . . . is prepared to be in a low place . . . readily honours his superiors . . . takes reproofs quietly . . . readily honours others as above him . . . easily yields to be taught . . . does not claim much to his understanding and judgment. The design of the gospel is to cut off all glorifying, not only before God , but also before men . . . There is a certain amiable modesty and fear arising from humility, that belongs to a Christian behaviour . . . “Be ready to give an answer . . . with meakness and fear” . . . “how with fear and trembling ye received him” . . . Servants be subject to your masters with all fear” . . . “While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear” . . . “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” In this respect a Christian is like a little child whose heart is possessed with fear and awe in the presence of adults.
  • z. . . . until the box was broken, the ointment could not flow, nor diffuse its odour; so gracious affections flow out of a broken heart. . . All gracious affections that are a sweet odour to Christ and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken-hearted affections.
    • True Christian love is a humble broken-hearted love
    • Desires of the saints are humble desires
    • True Christian hope is a humble hope
    • True Christian joy, even when it is joy unspeakable and full of glory, is a humble broken-hearted joy

Legal Humility

  • a. This is found in the natural man in whom is at work the common influence of the Holy Spirit (using natural principles and natural conscience)
  • b. The person is convinced of his sinfulness and that he stands exposed to the wrath of God but does not see his own odiousness on account of sin.
  • e. He is subdued and forced to the ground.
  • f. Legal humility, though not true, can be instrumental in bringing a person to true evangelical humility.
  • i. Such a person may distance himself from the world but cannot empty himself of dignity and glory. Many recluses have done the former.
  • j. They may say that they have great shortcomings and are the meanest of saints, and yet if a minister should seriously tell them the same things in private . . . it would be more than they could digest . . . So far as a man is not emptied of himself, and of his own righteousness . . . he is of a legal spirit.
  • k. Some harsh words from Edwards here: Such a person is living on his own righteousness; and such persons are on the high road to hell. Poor deluded wretches, who think they look so glistering in God’s eyes, when they are a smoke in His nose . . .
  • l. There is a sort of men, who indeed abundantly cry down works and cry up faith in opposition to works. They make a show of being evangelical and advancing the gospel and free grace, but are in fact of a legal spirit and are some of the greatest enemies to the gospel way of free grace . . . and pure humble Christianity.
  • m. Examples of the inner pride:
    • “God I thank Thee that I am not as other men.”
    • They are confident that they are guides of the blind . . .
  • o. While verbally giving God the credit for their holiness, they have a high view of their holiness.
  • w. Infallible signs of spiritual pride:
    • Sign #1: He thinks that he is a better saint than others. The disposition . . . to look on themselves as better than others is what God has declared to be very hateful to Him: a smoke in His nose, and a fire that burneth all the day.
    • Sign #2: He thinks highly of his humility.
  • x. How careful we must be because of the deceitfulness of sin!
    You ask yourself: You think that you are better than others
    Self:No, it seems to me none are so bad as I” (Don’t believe this for one moment)
    You ask yourself: Do you think yourself better than others because you imagine that you think so meanly of yourself? Have you not a high opinion of your humility?
    Self: No, I have not a high opinion of my humility; it seems to me I am as proud as the devil.
    You ask yourself: Does not self-conceit rise up under this cover that you not think yourself as proud as the devil

[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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One response »

  1. Wow, you tackled a hard thing – mapping out that chapter. I noticed, too, the point-counterpoint way he addressed this, but the way you lined up the points was really helpful. And those diagrams. All of a sudden I remembered how you make your living, and thought how appropriately suited you are for both your work, and to explain things of this nature in a entirely unique way. Thanks for all the hard work you’ve put into this. I’m sure anyone looking to study through this will find this helpful.

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