Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections Part 1.

Rev. Jonathan Edwards
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Jonathan Edwards is a historical individual of some renown not only for his influence within Christian circles but also for his intellectual abilities as a philosopher. In the style of his times (1700’s) he is wordy – and since the topics he oftentimes deal with are of no trifling matters, his writings are often difficult to read and understand. Still, I have found great value in reading his works having finished his work on the freedom of the will and now undertaking to read his Religious Affections.

In this latter volume Edwards undertakes to examine the biblical merit of “affections” (emotions, physical manifestations) of spiritual experience. Edwards was part of the “Great Awakening” that occurred in the United States (colonies at this juncture) and while these awakenings were accompanied by many “affections” there was a pendulum swing against these in the years following the Awakening.

In this post I will attempt to summarize the arguments made by Jonathan Edwards in the first of his three part Religious Affections – including the Scriptural references he found applicable and some of the quotations from his work I found either most illuminating of his thought or most thought provoking in their own right.

  • (1 Peter 1:8) – Peter indicates that we “love” and find “joy” in God, therefore, “True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.”
  • What are the Affections? – “The affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.” – That is, the affections are those things which make us do what we do.
    • “The will, and the affections of the soul, are not two faculties; the affections are not essentially distinct from the will, nor do they differ from the mere actings of the will, and inclination of the soul, but only in the liveliness and sensibleness of exercise.”
    • While one could note this of every action, Edwards is most particularly interested in those affections which most greatly move us – not in the ebb and flow of daily life, but the extravagant affections.
  • The “affections” are not merely the result of the physiological body, though the affections may affect the body and vice versa. Thus, a disembodied spirit is as capable of the affections as an individual with a  physical body (he is here thinking of spirits in heaven, not of ghosts).
  • “That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above a state of indifference: God, in his word, greatly insists upon it, that we be good in earnest, “fervent in spirit,” and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion…”
    • Rom. 12:11
    • Deut. 10:12
    • Deut. 6:4, 6
    • Deut. 30:6
    • 2 Tim. 3:5
    • 2 Tim. 1:7
    • Luke 24:32
  • “The business of religion is from time to time compared to those exercises, wherein men are wont to have their hearts and strength greatly exercised and engaged, such as running, wrestling or agonizing for a great prize or crown, and fighting with strong enemies that seek our lives, and warring as those, that by violence take a city or kingdom.”
    • “The Author of the human nature has not only given affections to men, but has made them very much the spring of men’s actions. As the affections do not only necessarily belong to the human nature, but are a very great part of it; so…holy affections do not only necessarily belong to true religion, but are a very great part of it. And as true religion is of a practical nature, and God hath so constituted the human nature, that the affections are very much the spring of men’s actions, this also shows, that true religion must consist very much in the affections.”
    • “I am bold to assert, that there never was any considerable change wrought in the mind or conversation of any person, by anything of a religious nature, that ever he read, heard or saw, that had not his affections moved.”
    • “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.”
    • 1 Cor. 13:13
    • Psa. 146:5
    • Jer. 17:7
    • Psa. 33:18
    • Psa. 147:11
    • Rom. 8:24
    • 1 Thess. 5:8
    • Heb. 6:19
    • 1 Pet. 1:3
  • “The contrary affection of hatred also, as having sin for its object, is spoken of in Scripture as no inconsiderable part of true religion.”
    • Prov. 8:13
    • Psa. 97:10
    • Psa. 2:3
    • Psa. 119:104
    • Psa. 139:21
  • “So holy desire, exercised in longings, hungerings, and thirstings after God and holiness, is often mentioned in Scripture as an important part of true religion”
    • Isa. 26:8
    • Psa. 27:4
    • Psa. 42:1,2
    • Psa. 63:1,2
    • Psa. 84:1,2
    • Psa. 119:20
    • Psa. 73:25
    • Psa. 143:6,7
    • Psa. 130:6
    • Cant. 3:1,2
    • Cant. 6:8
    • Matt. 5:6
  • The Scriptures speaks of holy joy, as a great part of true religion. So it is represented in the text. And as an important part of religion, it is often exhorted to, and pressed, with great earnestness”
    • Psa. 37:4
    • Psa. 97:12
    • Psa. 33:1
    • Matt. 5:12
    • Phil. 3:1
    • Phil. 4:4
    • 1 Thess. 5:16
    • Psa. 149:2
    • Gal. 5:21
    • Psa. 119:14
  • More to come…I’m tired now. =)

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