Religious Affections

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Jonathan Edwards says so eloquently in his book “The Religious Affections” {first published in 1746} that:

“The religion of heaven consists very much in affection…the religion of heaven consists chiefly in holy and mighty love and joy, and the expression of these in most fervent and exalted praises. So that the religion of the saints in heaven consists in the same things with that religion of the saints on earth which is spoken of in our text, viz., love, and ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’…”

“Will any say that the saints in heaven, in beholding the face of their Father and the glory of the Redeemer, and contemplating His wonderful works, and particularly His laying down His life for them, have their hearts nothing moved and affected by all which they behold or consider? Hence, therefore, the religion of heaven, consisting chiefly in holy love and joy, consists very much in affection; and therefore, undoubtedly, true religion consists very much in affection.”

So, what exactly is Edwards saying in his dense, Puritanical English? He is saying that, first, true religion does indeed involve affections. Now let me explain these 2 terms: religious affections. “Religion” for Edwards and his contemporaries is not what we think of in terms of religion. He meant by this term “true Christianity.” Secondly, “affections” meant true “emotions.” So when Edwards used these terms, religious affections, what he was saying is that true believers in Jesus Christ should and will evidence real emotions of love and joy in thinking of their Savior. Those who have truly been born again will evidence in their lives that same joy and love that those saints in heaven experience when they gaze upon their Savior.

Very challenging words for us! Do we, when we think upon our Savior, when we see Him in Scripture, do we have true emotions of love and joy? Does not this occur in heaven when saints see Jesus? Of course! And it should happen in our lives as well. Our lives should be full of “holy and mighty joy and love” when we see Jesus, and that in turn should lead us to “most fervent and exalted praises.”

And what if this does not happen? Let me lead you to Psalm 43 where the psalmist is depressed and lacking joy. He realizes that this kind of joy can only come about as God does a work in his life. He calls on God to send out His light and truth {v.3}, to let them lead him to God’s holy hill, and it is there, in God’s presence that the psalmist realizes his true joy: God. Pray that God would open your eyes to the truth and light of His Word and work on the cross, and let Him lead you to Himself, your joy and your delight.

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One comment

  1. Let me say that this is a great book! However, it is dense and will stretch your mind if you are used to easy reading. I would recommend reading a few pages at a time and meditating on it. Edwards has had a profound impact on my life. His intellect surpasses most. Definitely get a hold of anything by him and prepare to be stretched mentally and spiritually. Though his words are several hundred years old, they are extremely relevant… we must listen to this man, today.

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