Excerpts from 'Devotional Classics' edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Introduction to the Author Jonathan Edwards was a Congregational pastor and a key figure in the 18th century's 'Great Awakening'. He is considered one of America's greatest theologians. Born in Connecticut, educated at Yale, he ministered 23 years at a church in Northampton, Mass. He later became a missionary to the Indians at Stockbridge. In 1758 was named president of Princeton University but died only a few weeks after taking office. Edwards theology was a combination of the teachings of Locke and Calvin. His main concern was the question, 'How do we distinguish the presence of the Holy Spirit?' A central theme in his writing is the importance of religious 'affections' which he defined as the passions that move the will to act. 1. Engagement of the Heart The kind of religion that God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull and lifeless 'woulding' - those weak inclinations that lack convictions - that raise us but a little above indifference. God, in His Word, greatly insists that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit and that our hearts be engaged vigorously in our religion. (Rom. 12:11; Deut. 10:12, 30:6) 2. Holy Affection The importance of religion is so great that no halfhearted exercise will suffice. In nothing is the state of our heart so crucial as in religion, and in nothing is luke-warmness so odious. Therefore, true religion is called 'the power of godliness' in contrast to the external appearances of it, i.e., the mere 'form' "Having the form of godliness but denying the power of it." (2 Tim. 3:5) The Holy Spirit of God is a spirit of powerful holy affection in the lives of those who have a sound and solid religion. (1 Tim. 1:7) 3. The Exercising of the Will For every true disciple of Christ loves Him far above father, mother, sister and brother, spouse and children, houses and land, yes even above his own life. From this it follows that wherever true religion is, there is a will that moves that person to spiritual exercises. But what we said before must be remembered: the exercising of the will is nothing other than the affections of the soul. 4. The Spring of Action The nature of human beings is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection: love or hate, desire, hope, fear, etc. the things that set us moving in our lives, that move us to engage in activities. When we look at the world, we see that people are exceedingly busy. It is their affections that keep them busy. If we were to take away their affections, the world would be motionless and dead; there would be no such thing as activity. It is the affection that we call covetousness that moves a person to seek worldly profits; it is the affection called ambition that moves a person to pursue worldly glory; it is the affection we call lust that moves a person to pursue sensual delights. Just as worldly affections are the spring of worldly actions, so the religious affections are the spring of religious action. 5. A Heart Deeply Affected Nothing is more apparent than this: our religion takes root within us only as deep as our affections attract it. There are thousands who hear the Word of God, who hear the great and exceedingly important truths about themselves and their lives, and yet, all they hear has no affect upon them, makes no change in the way they live. The reason is this: they are not affected by what they hear. I am bold in saying this but I believe.....there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart deeply affected by those things. 6. True Religion The Holy Scriptures clearly see religion as a result of affections, namely the affections of fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion and zeal. -Holy Fear: Truly religious people tremble at the Word of God. It is His holiness that makes them fear. -Hope: Hope in God and in the promises of God... is a very important part of true religion. it is mentioned as one of three great things of which religion consists. (1 Cor. 13:13) -Love: Love is given a high place in Scripture. We are called to love God and the Lord Jesus Christ and our neighbor. -Hatred: The contrary affection of Love; hatred is also a part of true religion., but in the sense that we hate sin and evil. (Prov. 8:13) -Holy Desire: Finds it's expression in longing and thirsting after God. (Ps. 42:1-2) -Joy: It is mentioned among the principal fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22) -Sorrow: Mourning and brokeness of heart are frequently spoken of as a great part of true religion. (Matt. 5:4, Ps. 51:17) -Gratitude: The exercise of ...thankfulness and praise to God. (See Psalms) -Compassion: All the good characters in the Bible demonstrate this affection. The Scriptures choose this quality as the one which will determine who is righteous. (Ps. 37:21. It is our way of honoring God. (Prov. 14:31) It is the way we obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7) -Zeal: It is what Christ had in mind for us when he paid the price for our redemption. (Titus 2:14) It was the essential thing missing in the lukewarm Laodiceans. (Rev. 3:15-16) Read: Deuteronomy 10:12-22 Reflection 1. According to Edwards, what is the 'spring of action' the source of motivation behind everything we do? 2. Think of a time when you decided to get involved in some activity. What were the affections that led to it? 3. According to Deut. 10:12-13 what are the affections and what are the actions that are required of us? 4. Which of the 9 affections Edwards mentions necessary for true religion have you felt the most? In which would you like to see growth?
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