Posted tagged ‘Religious Affections’

Universally His, Subject to His Will, Devoted to His Ends

January 3, 2010

In his book, Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards argues that the chief of all distinguishing signs of true and saving grace is Christian practice.  In a list of supporting reasons why he believes this to be the case, he speaks of the practical exercise of holy affections in making a “full choice” of God.  Starting off 2010, I thought these convicting words of Edwards would be well worth our attention:

“[T]he holy Scriptures do abundantly place sincerity and soundness in religion in making a full choice of God as our only Lord and portion, forsaking all for him, and, in a full determination of the will for God and Christ, on counting the cost; in our heart’s closing and complying with the religion of Jesus Christ, with all that belongs to it, embracing it with all its difficulties, as it were hating our dearest earthly enjoyments and even our own lives, for Christ; giving up ourselves, with all that we have, wholly and for ever, unto Christ, without keeping back anything, or making any reserve; or in one word, the great duty of self-denial for Christ; or in denying, i.e., as it were, disowning and renouncing ourselves for Him, making ourselves nothing that He may be all.

[…] A having a heart to deny ourselves for Christ tends to a denying ourselves indeed, when Christ and self-interest stand in competition.  A giving up of ourselves, with all that we have, in our hearts, without making any reserve there, tends to our behaving ourselves universally as His, as subject to His will, and devoted to His ends.  Our heart’s entirely closing with the religion of Jesus, with all that belongs to it, and as attended with all its difficulties, upon a deliberate counting the cost, tends to a universal closing with the same in act and deed, and actually going through all the difficulties that we meet with in the way of religion, and so holding out with patience and perseverance.”

– Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, 319-20 (emphasis mine).

We ought to be ashamed we are no more affected with the gospel.

November 9, 2009

One of the most sobering and soul-stirring quotes from the pen of Jonathan Edwards:

If true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may learn what great cause we have to be ashamed and confounded before God, that we are no more affected with the great things of religion.

God has given to mankind affections . . . that they might be subservient to man’s chief end, and the great business for which God has created him, that is, the business of religion.  And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters than in religion!  In things which concern men’s worldly interest, their outward delights, their honour and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity.

But how insensible and unmoved are most men about the great things of another world!  How dull are their affections!  How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters!  Here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small.

How they can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of His giving His infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, and holy, and tender Lamb of God, manifested in His dying agonies, His bloody sweat, His loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory–and yet be so cold and heavy, insensible and regardless!

Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here?. . . Is there anything which Christians can find in heaven or earth so worthy to be the objects of our admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope, and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

[ . . .] God has so disposed things in the affair of our redemption, and in His glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though every thing were purposely contrived in such a manner as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly.  How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust that we are no more affected!

– Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, 51-53.

Jonathan Edwards on Continued Transformation and Renewal

August 7, 2009

In his book Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards argued that one way distinguish truly gracious affections from others is that they are attended with a change of nature.  When the soul has a spiritual understanding of the excellency and glory of divine things, such understanding brings the supernatural effect of transformation, or a change of nature.  Because this conversion not only imparts “light from the Sun of Righteousness” but also becomes “a luminous thing” by partaking of the nature of the Fountain of their light.  To put it another way, Edwards says “the saints not only drink of the water of life that flows from the original fountain, but this water becomes a fountain of water in them, springing up there and flowing out of them.” What Edwards is illustrating is the continual renewal that comes from participating in the glory of divine things through the transforming power of the gospel.

As I have been developing a theology of renewal in recent weeks, I want to post the following excerpt from Edwards quite pertinent to the discussion.  Check it out.

“As it is with spiritual discoveries and affections given at first conversion, so it is in all subsequent illuminations and affections of this kind; they are all transforming.  There is a like divine power and energy in them as in the first discoveries; they still reach the bottom of the heart, and affect and alter the very nature of the soul, in proportion to the degree in which they are given.  And a transformation of nature is continued and carried on by them to the end of life, until it is brought to perfection in glory.  Hence the progress of the work of grace in the hearts of the saints is represented in Scripture as a continued conversion and renovation of nature” (270).

“What Does Your Heart Say About Christ?” Sibbes and Piper on the Affections

January 24, 2008

“The soul is never quiet till it comes to God . . . and that is the one thing the soul desireth.”
– Richard Sibbes, “A Breathing After God,” in Works. Vol. 2:217-18.

“A man knows no more in religion than he loves and embraceth with the affections of his soul.”
– Richard Sibbes, “Fountain Opened,” in Works. Vol. 5:478.

“The Christian will desire to see the beauty of God in his house, that his soul might be ravished in the excellency of the object, and that the highest powers of his soul, his understanding, will, and affections might be fully satisfied, that he might have full contentment.”
– Richard Sibbes, “A Breathing After God,” in Works. Vol. 2:237-38.

“Therefore, when we find our heart inflamed with love to God, we may know that God hath shined upon our souls in the pardon of sin; and proportionally to our measure of love is our assurance of pardon.  Therefore we should labour for a greater measure thereof, that our hearts may be the more inflamed in the love of God.”
– Richard Sibbes, “The Returning Backslider,” in Works. Vol. 2:264.

“The brain could not give convincing witness to conversion because religion could be well known to the understanding, and yet a stranger in the heart.  Such was the case with hypocrites.”
– Mark Dever, quoting Richard Sibbes, “Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations,”  in Works. Vol. 7:200-01.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
– John Piper