Jul 28, 2022

Religious Affections

jonathan edwards

I long to grow in affection and love for God. I believe every true Christian would say the same. Yet I so often find my love and affections cold. Maybe you can relate? I was recently challenged to think more about this through reading Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. I commend it to you. It may take a little more time to process than some more modern books, but it is worth it!

Here are two big take aways and one application I found from Edwards’ writing, along with a few quotes from him to help explain each.

1. God created us to passionately live for him.

“If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart. The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of in the word of God, is, undoubtedly, because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things.”

“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. … In nothing is vigour in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious.”

2. Not every passion, though religious in appearance, is from God.

“Having formed in their minds such a God as suits them, and thinking him to be such an one as themselves, who favours and agrees with them, they may like him very well, and feel a sort of love to him, when they are far from loving the true God.”

“If we have a mind to know whether a building stands strong or no, we must look upon it when the wind blows. If we would know whether that which appears in the form of wheat, has the real substance of wheat, or be only chaff, we must observe it when it is winnowed. If we would know whether a staff be strong, or a rotten broken reed, we must observe it when it is leaned on, when weight is borne upon it. If we would weigh ourselves justly, it must be in God’s appointed scales. These trials in the course of our practice, are as it were the balances in which our hearts are weighed.”

3. Application: Live with passion for Christ, and be discerning.

How can we live with both passion and discernment?

“The right way, is not to reject all affections, nor to approve all: but to distinguish between them.” “Gracious affections do not tend to make men bold, forward, noisy, and boisterous…” “a proud person is apt to think his humility great, and a very humble person his humility small.” “The design of the gospel is to cut off all glorying, not only before God, but also before men.”

“The more a true saint loves God with a gracious love, the more he desires to love him, and the more uneasy is he at his want of love to him: the more he hates sin, the more he desires to hate it, and laments that he has so much remaining love to it. The more he mourns for sin, the more he longs to mourn; the more his heart is broken, the more he desires it should be broken. The more he thirsts and longs after God and holiness, the more he longs to long, and breathe out his very soul in longings after God.”

Brothers and sisters, may we live and long for Jesus, with passion and true religious affection.