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THE CHURCH OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST
“True religion, in great part, consists in Holy Affections.” The trails believers experience demonstrate whether their faith is true or false. They endure and overcome when they have the supernatural foundation of the love of Christ. And, whatever they suffer, an inner spiritual joy is always present, which supports and sustains them. These passions motivate our will and shape our mind, character, and heart. True faith depends on both the will and emotion.
Faith acceptable to God is not lifeless or indifferent. God insists that we should be earnest, fervent in spirit, Romans 12:11. Many examples are found in Scripture on the necessity of intense emotion in living a godly life. Deuteronomy 6:4,5; 10:12; 30:6 — love and serve God with all your heart and soul. Luke14:26 — hate even your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and your own life to be Christ’s disciple. Psalm 146:5 — happy is the one who hopes in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 — be of good courage and strengthen your heart. Psalms 33:18; 147:11 — fear the lord. Proverbs 8:14; Psalms 97:10; 101:2,3; 139:21 — hate evil. Titus 2:14 30:6 — be zealous of good works. Proverbs 14:31 — have mercy on the poor. Matthew 22:37–40 — love God and love your neighbor. Psalm 37:4 — delight yourself in the Lord. Isaiah 26: 8 — let God be the desire of your soul. Psalm 27:4; 42:1,2; 63:1,2 — seek the Lord out of desire. Matthew 5:12 — rejoice and be exceedingly glad.
“In nothing is vigour in the actings of our inclinations so requisite as in religion: and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious. True religion is evermore a powerful thing; and the power of it appears, in the first place in the inward exercises of it in the heart, where is the principal and original seat of it. Hence true religion is called the power of godliness, in distinction from the external appearances of it, that are a form of it, 2 Tim. 3:5.” Thus, God gives us the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, II Timothy 1:7; and in doing so, believers become baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, because God inspires their hearts and burns within them, Luke 24:32. All who have the power of godliness are pulled toward God and divine things with a strength and fervor that overcomes all natural, earthly affections.
God made emotions the source of our actions, and the expression of emotion is a very large part of faith. Emotions move us forward in our worldly life. Emotions motivate and inspire. Religion becomes a force in our life to the extent it takes effect in our heart. Without emotion, the Word of God does not change our behavior or create anything of substance in our life. “The holy Scriptures do everywhere place religion very much in the affection; such as fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion and zeal.” And, many scriptures emphasize that “love is…the sum of all religion…,” Matthew 22:37–40; Romans 13:8–10; Galatians 5:14; I Timothy 1:5.
Note David was a man after God’s own heart. The apostle Paul was a person of deep feeling — II Corinthians 2:4: For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you, cf. 12:19; Philippians 4:1; II Timothy 1:2; I Thessalonians 2:8; Romans 1:11. Jesus also expressed himself emotionally — John 2:17:…the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, cf. Mark 3:5; Luke 9:41–42; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; Mark 6:34. Many verses of Scripture indicate that our emotional life will continue in heaven, John 4:14; 6:40, 47, 50–51, 54, 58; I Corinthians 13:8–12; I John 3:15. Prayer and singing praises to God are important because they affect our emotions. So also, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are experienced by emotion. Good preaching affects our hearts more than our intellects. True spirituality relies on the feelings, and falling away from God involves hardening the heart.
The Bible associates sin with hardness of heart, not being moved by emotion, Romans 2:15; Ezekiel 3:7; Psalm 95:7,8; Acts 19:9; Hebrews 3:8,12. Being delivered from the power of sin takes away a heart of stone, Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26. However, being more emotional does not make a person more spiritual. Spirituality should not be judged by the nature of temporary emotion but by the strength of emotional habit. Actually, our passions may not have outward expression, depending on how busy our life might be, but they are necessary to a healthy spiritual life, and proper intellectual understanding should produce emotion. Having too little emotion is error, just as having too much.
Being prejudiced against religious emotion leads to a hard heart, lifeless formality, and a denial of the power of God. Being merely emotional, without transformation of the soul, leads to an addiction to excitement. Our emotions should help us to grow in our spiritual relationship to God. Usually, our emotions are mostly involved in worldly matters. Yet, nothing is more exciting, lovable, or desirable than our spiritual life. Jesus Christ is worthy of our emotion.
“…as we ought not to reject and condemn all affections as though true religion did not at all consist in affection; so, on the other hand, we ought not to approve of all, as though every one that was religiously affected had true grace, and was therein the subject of the saving influences of the Spirit of God. The right way is to distinguish among religious affections, between one sort and another.”
Each of the following by itself indicates nothing: 1) intense emotion; 2) a physical reaction to emotion — although Scripture does note at times that spiritual feelings affect the body, Psalm 63:1; 84:2; 119:120; Daniel 10:8; Revelation 1;17; Habakkuk 3:16; 3) talking with fluency and eagerness, Proverbs 25:14; Jude 12; II Peter 2:17; 4) emotions not excited by self-effort, I John 4:1; 5) emotions accompanied by bible verses — Scripture can be abused, and even used by Satan, II Peter 3:16; 6) emotions with the appearance of a fullness of love; which actually can be counterfeited; 7) experiencing many different kinds of emotion, any of which can be counterfeited, especially when Satan inspires someone of great self-importance; 8) the joy and comfort of a religious experience, which can occur without the Holy Spirit; 9) time and effort spent on religion — hypocrites have great energy; 10) verbal expressions of praise — words alone do not prove the condition of the heart; 11) self-confidence — people who have a high opinion of themselves usually are self-confident; 12) being able to please and inspire others through the demonstration of religious feeling, I Samuel 16:7; Psalm 55:12–14; Isaiah 11:3; I Corinthians: 4:5; Revelation 2:17.
The following 12 ways to distinguish true religious affections from false ones are guidelines only, not proof of the nature of a person’s heart. They do not indicate the status of grace a person has with God. They will serve little good to those not right with God. They are not a method of assurance of salvation. They will not by themselves convince hypocrites of their own errors, but they may help true believers become more pure in their religion. (The below italicized headings are Edwards’ own words introducing each section, followed by a restatement in modern language)
1. Affections that are truly spiritual and gracious do arise from those influences and operations on the heart which are spiritual, supernatural and divine. (True religious emotion has a divine source).
“So that not only the persons are called spiritual, as having the Spirit of God dwelling in them, but those qualifications, affections, and experiences, that are wrought in them by the Spirit are also spiritual, and therein differ vastly in their nature and kind from all that a natural man is or can be subject of while he remains in a natural state…” We do not become like little gods, but we become partakers of the divine nature, II Peter 1:4. “…those gracious influences which the saints are subjects of, and the effects of God’s Spirit which they experience, are entirely above nature, altogether of a different kind from anything that men find within themselves by nature…” We become more surrendered to God, with greater spiritual understanding and more sensitivity to Christ’s nature. God’s grace is communicated to our hearts; “So the saints are said to live by Christ living in them, Galatians 2:20.” The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…, I Corinthians 2:14, cf. John 14:17, but “…natural men may be the subjects of many influences of the Spirit of God, as is evident by many Scriptures,” Numbers 24:2; I Samuel 10:10; 16:14; I Corinthians 13:1–3; Hebrews 6:4–6, etc.
Satan uses the imagination to delude us. “…it is certain also that the devil can excite, and often hath excited, such ideas. They were external ideas which he excited in the dreams and visions of the false prophets of old, who were under the influence of lying spirits, that we often read of in Scripture, as Deut. 13:1, I Kings 22:22, Ezek. 13:7. And they were external ideas that he often excited in the minds of the heathen priests, magicians and sorcerers, in their visions and ecstasies, and they were external ideas that he excited in the mind of the Man Christ Jesus, when he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world….” These mental experiences may be sudden or intense, but then we should not assume that they are divine. They may incite a selfish delight, because we imagine they indicate God’s approval or something wonderful is being promised, but when there is no new spiritual understanding, we are deluded. God does not carry on conversations with people, does not make promises to help us become more selfish, does not give us unique messages omitted from the Bible. Emotions from these experiences are not spiritual.
Romans 8:16 notes, The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, but this confirmation is not an inward voice or a declaration from God, but Spirit given insight regarding our characters as evidence that we are the children of God.
2. The primary ground of gracious affections is the transcendently excellent and amiable nature of divine things as they are in themselves; and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or self-interest. (Religious emotion is caused by the nature of God alone, not what a personal understanding of a relation to divine things means to self-interest or a sense of self-worth).
When we love God, we do so simply because of who he is, not because of what he can do for us. We see him as the best thing in our lives; we desire his good as our own. The basis of our love is his supreme loveliness and worthiness, and he is the foundation of our lives. Our delight and pleasure are what we find in him, and we become invisible in looking upon the loveliness of Christ.
If people love God only because of what he can do for them, they do not possess a grace-filled, spiritual love. They may have deep feelings and gratitude, but they will create an imaginary God, one that suits them. They may be glad God loves them more than others and imagine they have special communion with him. Instead of making the love of God the foundation of their lives, they build God as a superstructure onto having themselves at the deepest level of their being. They easily worship God as they have created him and assume he will lift them above others.
When they believe that they have received revelations, they are not so impressed with the glory of God, as the beauty of their own experiences. They rise higher and higher in their own mind and are more fascinated with the experience than the message. Then, fervent feelings arise within them for being such a prominent saint. They think — “What a high attainment this is, and what a good story I now have to tell others!” And, “…they are full of talk about the great things they have met with, the wonderful discoveries they have had, how sure they are of the love of God to them, how safe their condition is, and how they know they shall go to heaven, etc.”
3. Those affections that are truly holy, are primarily founded on the loveliness of the moral excellency of divine things. (Religious emotion based on holiness focuses on the beauty of God’s righteousness).
By moral excellence Edwards does not refer to conformity to duty but rather to internal virtue, such as faith, love, humility, a heavenly directed perspective instead of being self-focused. Moral excellence involves being naturally good even when there are no choices on conduct to be made. Theologians refer to God’s moral perfection in citing the attributes God exercises as a moral agent, righteousness, truth, faithfulness, or in a word, holiness. But, in noting God’s natural perfection, they speak of his omnipotence, omniscience, infinite existence, omnipresence, awesome majesty. Humanity also possesses this dual image of moral agent and natural being, the latter resting in abilities and strength.
“…the first objective ground of all holy affections is the supreme excellency of divine things as they are in themselves, or in their own nature…Holy persons, in the exercise of holy affections, do love divine thing primarily for their holiness. They love God, in the first place, for the beauty of His holiness or moral perfection, as being supremely amiable in itself. Not that saints, in the exercise of gracious affections, do love God only for His holiness; all His attributes are amiable and glorious in their eyes; they delight in every divine perfection; the contemplation of the infinite greatness, power, and knowledge, and terrible majesty of God, is pleasant to them. But their love to God for His holiness is what is most fundamental and essential in their love. Here it is that true love to God begins; all other holy love to divine things flows from hence.” God’s wisdom is beautiful because it is holy; his majesty is lovely, because it is holy. To love God, we must delight in his holiness, I Samuel 2:2; Psalm 97:11,12; 98:1; 99:2–9; 147.
“Herein consists the beauty of the Christian Religion above all other religions, that it is so holy a religion.” Believers are beautiful because they have God’s holy image. Jesus was pleasing because he was the holy one of God. The Gospel is beautiful because it is holy. Salvation through Christ is beautiful because it is holy. The holiness of divine things feeds true spiritual emotions. Those of us who have life in Christ have a new supernatural sense, a spiritual taste, to perceive the beauty of holiness. (Scripture often refers to the beauty of holiness in terms of tasting, John 4:32, 34; Psalm 19:7–10).
Believers have been given a supernatural sense of the holiness that is all around them, which draws them closer to God. “Such a difference is there between true saints and natural men: natural men have no sense of the goodness and excellency of holy things, at least for their holiness, they have no taste for that kind of good; and so may said not to know the divine good, or not to see it; it is wholly hid from them. But the saints by the mighty power of God, have it discovered to them; they have that supernatural, most noble and divine sense given them, by which they perceive it; and it is this that captivates their hearts and delights them above all things…By this, you may examine your love to God, and to Jesus Christ, and to the Word of God, and your joy in them, and also your love to the people of God, and your desires after heaven; whether they be from a supreme delight in this sort of beauty, without being primarily moved by your imagined interest in them, or expectations from them. There are many high affections, great seeming love and rapturous joys, which have nothing of this holy relish belonging to them.”
4. Gracious affections arise from the mind being enlightened, rightly and spiritually to understand or apprehend divine things. (Spiritually gifted emotion is based on a proper intellectual understanding of what is godly).
Religious feelings are not emotion without understanding. Religious affections come from spiritual instruction, the light of actual knowledge. However, “…there is such a thing as an understanding of divine things, which in its nature and kind is wholly different from all knowledge that natural men have…there is an understanding of divine things which the Scripture calls spiritual understanding,” Colossians 1:9. Spiritual knowledge is an understanding that comes from the heart and that is based on experience. It is very different than a knowledge of the definition of a triangle or square, but it is an understanding that comes from deep within our being, such as a knowledge of sweetness, nausea, friendliness, or hatred.
When we discover the beauty of holiness, a new world is opened to our view. We see the beauty of holiness as the most essential thing in the world, creation’s deepest principle, without which the world is empty and meaningless. We realize everything is related to God. And, we also see the ugliness of sin.
Without this spiritual light, we have no knowledge at all, only a shadow of knowledge, and we are in essence blind, deaf, senseless. When Christ brings us back to life, suddenly nothing looks as it did before, and our very identities are changed. From this sense of duty comes all true experiential religious knowledge. “This sort of understanding is that knowledge of divine things from which all truly gracious affections proceed; by which therefore all affections are to be tried. Those affections that arise wholly from any other kind of knowledge, or result from any other kind of apprehension of mind, are vain.”
If we do not understand the beauty of holiness, we know nothing about God’s grace. This understanding is not the same thing as doctrinal knowledge, (I Corinthians 13:2), and Bible scholars who pride themselves on what they know, but who lack this understanding are deluded. If they receive a doctrine through direct mental perception, remember Balaam — it may not be as the Spirit of God leading the sons of God, (Romans 8:14).
Receiving a sudden or extraordinary insight on a text of Scripture does not mean we have spiritual light. Finding new or special personal meanings from Scripture actually stems from a person’s feelings of self-importance. Being moved by Scripture without having an understanding of the beauty of holiness is not truly spiritual. Becoming excited over learning from a natural course of study is not spiritual.
Enlightenment from the Spirit comes from our eyes being open to what has always been in a text of Scripture. The Spirit guides us by allowing us to see what is true moral beauty, by helping us discern the difference between good and evil, without any intellectual discourse, just as the ear knows good music, or the palate good food. A healthy spiritual taste and appetite leads us to loving actions, which is how the Spirit leads, and which is why the Pharisees were judged for demanding a sign, Luke 12:57. The renewing of our minds proves what is good, Romans 12:2. “The saints, in thus judging of actions by a spiritual taste, have not a particular recourse to the express rules of God’s word, with respect to every word and action that is before them, the good or evil of which they thus judge: but yet their taste itself, in general, is subject to the rule of God’s word, and must be tried by that, and a right reasoning upon it.”
Thus, true spiritual leading is not experiencing new rules suggested to our conscience, imaginary visions, impressions of the future, or new meanings for scripture. These experiences may be emotional, hysterical, glittery, and attractive, but they come from Satan, and the mentally unstable are the most susceptible to them. We must be careful to distinguish from a natural use of the imagination and one being affected by Satan, coming as an angel of light.
5. Truly gracious affections are attended with a reasonable and spiritual conviction of the reality and certainty of divine things. (Religious emotions have a reasonable basis for a belief in the reality of what is divine).
Grace-filled believers have an absolute conviction of the Gospel’s truth, and this belief is based on real evidence. It is not enough to believe in Christ because our parents or the rest of the country do. The belief must be based on a real awareness of eternity with life changing results.
The reasons for the belief may be intellectual, but they also must be spiritual. Believing in the Gospel requires communication with the Holy Spirit, which leads to his indwelling presence. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God, I John 4:15; Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, I John 5:1; he that believeth on the son of God hath the witness in himself, I John 5:10.
Spiritual illumination convinces our minds in two ways, one direct, the other indirect. 1) When we perceive divine glory, our belief is reasonable, “…because the divine glory and beauty of divine things, is in itself a real evidence of their divinity, and the most direct and strong evidence.” God’s beauty is infinitely different from any other. This does not mean that we abandon intellect or deduction in our belief, but we do not need a long chain of arguments.
God’s excellence is different from ours, and it is beautiful because it is good. Thus, the disciples were certain Jesus was God, because they beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, John 1:14. But, only spiritual people can see it, and then they grasp all the nuances of the Gospel, and they realize happiness consists of enjoying God’s holiness. We are convinced the Gospel is true, because we experience its glory.
Historical evidence and scholarly arguments are not sufficient for a belief in truth, because doubts will always remain. However, the apostle speaks of firm assurance: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, Hebrews 10:22, cf. Colossians 2:2. We have proof of God’s covenant, because he arranges everything in our lives as evidence of it. Thus, we see the truth and become witnesses of it, John 1:34; 3:11; I John 4:14; Acts 22:14,15; Hebrews 11:1; 12:1. We have seen God, because we have seen his glory that shines through the Gospel. All believers have experienced God first hand and have internal proof of his existence. External arguments can be persuasive, and remove prejudices, but spiritual conviction “…arises from an apprehension of the spiritual beauty and glory of divine thing….”
2) Indirectly, spiritual illumination helps our reason, directs our intellect, casts light on ideas, and helps us to understand.
Natural people can have some perception of God’s greatness and power, a sense of guilt, a tendency to believe the Bible, but without sufficient depth for true spiritual conviction. Sharp impressions that imaginative people experience may cause a belief in invisible things, but usually they draw the person away from the Word of God and a full acceptance of the Gospel. And, some people are only concerned about religious matters to the extent they can find ways to meet their self-interest.
6. Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation. (Spiritually gifted emotion is not proud but humble).
When people see the beauty and goodness of God, then they truly see their own inadequacy, and an evangelical humility grows. If they see only the majesty of God, the perfection of his laws, they are convinced of their sinfulness, but they do not see their inadequacy. They may feel a despair, but they still see themselves as the center of the universe and remain un-surrendered to God. They have only a legalistic humility. Evangelical humility causes us not to seek anything for ourselves, for we have seen God’s holy beauty, which causes us to renounce ourselves. We need this emptiness to experience true religion.
“As we would therefore make the Holy Scriptures our rule in judging of the nature of true religion, and judging of our own religious qualifications and state, it concerns us greatly to look at this humiliation as one of the most essential things pertaining to true Christianity. This is the principal part of the great Christian duty of self-denial…first, in a man’s denying his worldly inclinations…and, secondly, in denying his natural self-exaltation.” The truly humble Christian renounces his own dignity and glory, empties himself, annihilates himself. If people abandoned worldly wealth and pleasure without renouncing their dignity and self-importance, they have not denied themselves for Christ but have traded one lust for another. They are full of self-righteousness, for they want to be better than everyone. They talk about their failures and inadequacies, so that others will look at them as preeminent saints.
The spiritually proud are legalistic, because that proves their righteousness, not only to men but to God. Some people renounce legalism, insisting that faith is everything; yet, their lives smack of self-righteousness, as they brim with the glory of their self-denial and are lifted up by their own humility. The spiritually proud try to push to the front of God’s people, always wanting the highest positions for themselves. Whereas, truly humble people think of themselves as less than others and are apt to seek the lowest position. They do not assume authority or insist on being leaders.
“There are some persons that naturally think highly of their experiences; and they do often themselves speak of their experiences as very great and extraordinary….” They find “the great things they have met with” impressive compared to what other believers have known, and their having this extra measure of grace means they are an eminent saint(s). However, true Christians are actually ashamed their achievements are so small and simple, their knowledge so limited. The grace they have seems so little compared to what they know God has available. Their experiences seem small in their own eyes compared to God’s holiness. They wonder why they are not filled with more love. They long to explore the limitless reaches of experiencing God. When we use God as our measuring stick, our lack becomes apparent.
7. Another thing, wherein gracious affections are distinguished from others, is, that they are attended with a change of nature. (Spiritually gifted emotion changes our inner-being).
When we perceive divine reality, our hearts are transformed, and spiritual feelings come. Our very nature changes, the way we feel and act. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, II Corinthians 3:18. Only the power of God changes our nature — we become new creatures; we are raised from the dead, renewed in the Spirit of mind; we die to sin, live to righteousness, put off the old man and put on the new; we are grafted into new stock, have divine seed planted in our heart, and partake of the divine nature.
God does not communicate his Spirit as an external object, but he unites his Spirit with our soul and dwells within us, changing the foundation of who we are. And, our changed nature endures. We are not mirrors that reflect light, but lamps that illuminate from within our souls. Like a seed planted in the earth, we grow out from God but cling to him.
Therefore, the apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be transformed in God, by praying that they would be given the spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of God, as well as enlightened understanding of the Christian calling, and the greatness of God’s power toward believers, according to the working of his mighty power, chp. 1:17–21.
8. Truly gifted affections differ from those affections that are false and delusive, in that they tend to, and are attended with, the lamb-like, dove-like spirit and temper of Jesus Christ. (Spiritually gifted emotion differs from false and delusional emotions, in that they express the gentle temperament of Jesus Christ).
“In other words, they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness and mercy, as appeared in Christ…All that are truly godly, and real disciples of Christ, have this spirit in them; and not only so, but they are of this spirit. It is the spirit by which they are so possessed and governed that it is their true and proper character…The branch is of the same nature with the stock and root, has the same sap and bears the same sort of fruit. The members have the same kind of life with the head.”
Being a good soldier in Christ does not mean we have brutal and fierce strength. We have strength of mind through grace, which enables us to suppress selfish passions and desires, to act in love, to remain calm, gentle, kind, despite all storms and injuries. By grace we rule our spirit, Proverbs 16:32.
Christ was like a lamb when led to the crucifixion and prayed for the forgiveness of his transgressors. People who are fierce or violent lack his fortitude.
Christian should be forgiving, loving, merciful, unmoved by pride, caring only what God thinks. We should always be helping the less fortunate. True religion is love, not unique experiences and emotions.
9. Gracious affections soften the heart and are attended and followed with a Christian tenderness of spirit. (Spirit gifted emotion causes us to be tender).
Grace turns a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Thus, Christ compared the newborn believer to a young child. “Hence gracious affections do not tend to make men bold, forward, noisy, and boisterous; but rather to speak trembling,” Hosea. 13:1; Psalm. 119:120; Isaiah. 66:2.
10. Another thing wherein those affections that are truly gracious and holy differ from those that are false, is beautiful symmetry and proportion. (Spirit gifted emotions are expressed with a balanced harmony).
“In the truly holy affections of the saints is found that proportion which is the natural consequence of the universality of their sanctification. They have the whole image of Christ upon them…and there is something of the same beautiful proportion in the image which is in the original; there is feature for feature, and member for member. There is symmetry and beauty in God’s workmanship.” Hypocrites demonstrate emotion in a strange, patchy way, filled with contention, envy, revenge, and backbiting, without consideration for the golden rule. They dislike others who are different. They care for a part of a human being, but neglect the whole person. For instance, they may improve someone’s physical circumstances, while ignoring his emotional condition. They are disturbed at the sins of others, while ignoring their own. They are religious by fits and starts, with constant emotional ups and downs.
True Christians delight in time alone with God and in religious fellowship. The saints of Scripture always had their greatest spiritual experiences when they were alone. However, the balance of emotion may not be perfect, especially when the believer lacks proper instruction or has errors in judgment.
11. Another great and very distinguishing difference between gracious affections and others is, that the higher gracious affections are raised, the more is a spiritual appetite and longing of the soul after spiritual attainments increased. On the contrary, false affections rest satisfied in themselves. (Spirit gifted emotion moves a person to become more godly, as distinguished from being satisfied with an emotional experience itself).
12. Gracious and holy affections have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice. (Spirit gifted and holy emotions cause a person to be Christ-like in character and action).
“From what has been said, it is manifest that Christian practice, or a holy life, is a great and distinguishing sign of true and saving grace. But I may go further and assert that it is the chief of all signs of grace, both as an evidence of the sincerity of professors unto others, and also to their own conscience.” A person who imitates the life of Christ, denying himself to promote the Kingdom of God, is genuine. Our actions prove who we are better than any revelation or spiritual enlightenment, and Christ’s people are zealous of doing good works, Titus 2:14.
from the Introduction to Church Essentials: Relevant Issues For A Spiritual Community.
Just as controversial, but found throughout many centuries, are issues regarding the place of emotion in church meetings and true religious experiences. Perhaps, no one has dealt more thoroughly and with more exquisite wisdom in the essence of this debate than Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), in his extensive treatise Religious Affections. Edwards is constantly praised by scholars as America’s greatest and most influential theologian. Unfortunately, he is very seldom read by the average Christian, and his insights on clarifying the relevance of emotion to religious practices have been essentially lost for our time.
The problem in keeping Religious Affections widely read may be that many church leaders in reality are not fond of the actual truth of Edwards’ arguments and have no desire to actively promote his position, that at times the expression of intense emotion is a relevant part of an active faith in God. However, the real difficulty in reading this work is, that most people simply do not have the time or energy to tackle Edwards’ 18th century literary style in setting out a most comprehensive review of the subject. The very brief synopsis of Religious Affections included herein serves only as an introduction to the essence of its message. A quick summarization of this book should be available to those who would never find any exposure to Edwards’ arguments otherwise, due to their enduring significance to the Christian faith.
A Brief Synopsis of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections constitutes a chapter from Church Essentials: Relevant Issues for a Spiritual Community. Copyright 2004 by Montgomery Paul Webb. All rights reserved. However, permission is granted solely to private individuals to make ten copies of any disc containing this book, to include whatever other publications are available therein from the Church of the Love of Christ, for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the contents of the disc is copied;— 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
From printed material, photocopies only of any chapter can be made privately by individuals for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the chapter is copied and distributed, including the pages of the chapter rendering the name The Church of the Love of Christ, the author’s name, and the copyright notice; — 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
Chapters include — Introduction | What Is The Non-Institutional Church? | What Is Love? | Seeking Christian Humility | The Image of Woman in Scripture | Corinthians Un-Compromised | A Brief Synopsis of Jonathan Edwards’ RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS. | Charles Finney on Evangelism: Brief Synopses of REVIVAL FIRE and POWER FROM GOD.
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