Jonathan Edwards on the Affections Part 3 of 3

“I think it clearly and abundantly evident that true religion lies very much in the affections,” wrote Jonathan Edwards in his classic The Religious Affections (or see a solid modernization here). I’m going to post his ten supporting points for that assertion in three installments. I put the scriptural supporting points in a smaller, lighter font.

8. Heaven: “The religion of heaven consists very much in affection.” 42? “According to the Scripture representation of the heavenly state, the religion of heaven consists chiefly in holy and mighty love and joy, and the expression of these in most fervent and exalted praises.” PN: Indeed, if praise is the overflow of enjoyment, the fact that heaven is full of praise is a sure indication that heaven is full of joy. Praise without joy is not glorifying to God. It wouldn’t make sense, Edwards says, to argue that because the saints in heaven have no bodies they have no affections. The chief affections are love and joy, and both embodied souls and unembodied souls can feel them. Saved people on earth know that they have the same kind—though not degree—of love and joy that the saints in heaven feel.

a. “It is unreasonable therefore to suppose, that the love and joy of the saints in heaven differ not only in degree and circumstances, from the holy love and joy of the saints on earth, but also in nature, so that they are no affections; and merely because they have no blood and animal spirits to be set in motion by them. The motion of the blood and animal spirits is not of the essence of these affections, in men on the earth, but the effect of them; although by their reaction they may make some circumstantial difference in the sensation of the mind. There is a sensation of the mind which loves and rejoices, antecedent to any effects on the fluids of the body; and therefore, does not depend on these motions in the body, and so may be in the soul without the body.” 40 [LOGOS]

b. Is anyone willing to argue that the saints are not at all affected by the glory of God?

c. “The way to learn the true nature of anything is to go where that thing is to be found in its purity and perfection. If we would know the nature of true gold we must view it, not in the ore, but when it is refined.” 43

9. “This appears from the nature and design of the ordinances and duties which God hath appointed, as means and expressions of true religion.” 43

a. Prayer should certainly cause affections to rise which match the requests.

b. The duty of singing praises wouldn’t make sense except that music stirs our affections.

c. The sacraments are “sensible representations” to affect us.

d. Preaching is more affecting than a doctrinal book. The very purpose of God’s giving preachers was, according to Eph 4:11, 12, 16, to edify the body in love.

e. 1 Tim 1:3-5 says that love is the great purpose of a preacher’s preaching.

f. 2 Cor 1:24 calls a minister a “helper of your joy.”

10. “It is an evidence that true religion, or holiness of heart, lies very much in the affection of the heart, that the Scriptures place the sin of the heart very much in the hardness of heart.” 45

a. Mk 3:5, Jesus was angry and grieved at the hard hearts of the Jews.

b. Rom 2:5 says that “after thy hardness and impenitent heart” the wicked treasure up wrath.

c. Ezk 3:7 says Israel did not obey God because they were hardhearted.

d. Ps 95:7-10 says that the sin of the wilderness wanderers was that of hardheartedness.

e. Hardheartedness prevented Zedekiah’s coming to the lord.

f. It is the reason men do not fear God and turn fro his ways: Isa 63:17.

g. It is the reason many reject Christ. Acts 19:9

h. God’s judgment is often to harden hearts; Rom 9:18; Jn 12:40; Heb 3:8, 12, 13.

i. God’s great work of conversion is described as “taking away the heart of stone and giving a heart of flesh” Ex 11:19; 36:26.

j. The very image of a hard heart is of a stone, “insensible, stupid, unmoved, and hard to be impressed.” 46 “What is a tender heart but a heart which is easily impressed with what ought to affect it?” 46 Cf. Josiah in 2 Kgs 22:19. “We should have our hearts tender, and easily affected // and moved in spiritual and divine things, as little children have in other things.” 47

k. To have a hard heart is to be “void of affection” that should be there: Job 39:16; Prov 28:14.

l. “Divines are generally agreed that sin radically and fundamentally consists in what is negative, or privative, having its root and foundation in a privation or want of holiness. And therefore undoubtedly, if it be so that sin does very much consist in hardness of heart, and so in the want of pious affections of heart, holiness does consist very much in those pious affections.”

All this is not to say that any powerful affection makes you tenderhearted. Hard hearts can be full of “hatred, anger, vainglory, and other selfish and self-exalting affections.” 47

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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