HEART DEEPLY AFFECTED
Below is a section of a famous book called RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS by the 18th century American Puritan Pastor, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards had a towering intellect and yet he writes that just intellectually knowing the truth will not help us. Edwards argues that our heart has to be moved so that our “affections” or “emotions” are engaged by what we believe. It’s a long read and the language is a bit old fashioned but it really is worth the effort.
Nothing is more manifest in fact, than that the things of religion take hold of men’s souls, no further than they affect them. There are multitudes that often hear the word of God, and therein hear of those things that are infinitely great and important, and that most nearly concern them, and all that is heard seems to be wholly ineffectual upon them, and to make no alteration in their disposition or behavior; and the reason is, they are not affected with what they hear. There are many that often hear of the glorious perfections of God, his almighty power and boundless wisdom, his infinite majesty, and that holiness of God, by which he is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, and the heavens are not pure in his sight, and of God’s infinite goodness and mercy, and hear of the great works of God’s wisdom, power and goodness, wherein there appear the admirable manifestations of these perfections; they hear particularly of the unspeakable love of God and Christ, and of the great things that Christ has done and suffered, and of the great things of another world, of eternal misery in bearing the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, and of endless blessedness and glory in the presence of God, and the enjoyment of his dear love; they also hear the peremptory commands of God,and his gracious counsels and warnings, and the sweet invitations of the gospel; I say, they often hear these things and yet remain as they were before, with no sensible alteration in them, either in heart or practice, because they are not affected with what they hear; and ever will be so till they are affected. I am bold to assert, that there never was any considerable change wrought in the mind or conversation of any person, by anything of a religious nature, that ever he read, heard or saw, that had not his affections moved. Never was a natural man engaged earnestly to seek his salvation; never were any such brought to cry after wisdom, and lift up their voice for understanding, and to wrestle with God in prayer for mercy; and never was one humbled, and brought to the foot of God, from anything that ever he heard or imagined of his own unworthiness and deserving of God’s displeasure; nor was ever one induced to fly for refuge unto Christ, while his heart remained unaffected. Nor was there ever a saint awakened out of a cold, lifeless flame, or recovered from a declining state in religion, and brought back from a lamentable departure from God, without having his heart affected. And in a word, there never was anything considerable brought to pass in the heart or life of any man living, by the things of religion, that had not his heart deeply affected by those things.
4. The holy Scriptures do everywhere place religion very much in the affection; such as fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion, and zeal. The Scriptures place much of religion in godly fear; insomuch, that it is often spoken of as the character of those that are truly religious persons, that they tremble at God’s word, that they fear before him, that their flesh trembles for fear of him, and that they are afraid of his judgments, that his excellency makes them afraid, and his dread falls upon them, and the like: and a compellation commonly given the saints in Scripture, is “fearers of God,” or, “they that fear the Lord.+ And because the fear of God is a great part of true godliness, hence true godliness in general, is very commonly called by the name of the fear of God as everyone knows, that knows anything of the Bible.
So hope in God and in the promises of his word, is often spoken of in the Scripture, as a very considerable part of true religion. It is mentioned as one of the three great things of which religion consists, 1 Cor. 13:13. Hope in the Lord is also frequently mentioned as the character of the saints: Psal. 146:5, “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Jer. 17:7, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Psal. 31:24, “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” And the like in many other places. Religious fear and hope are, once and again, joined together, as jointly constituting the character of the true saints; Psal. 33:18, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.” Psal. 147:11, “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” Hope is so great a part of true religion, that the apostle says, “we are saved by hope, ” om. 8:24. And this is spoken of as the helmet of the Christian soldier. 1T hess. 5:8, “And for a helmet, the _hope_ of salvation;” and the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, which preserves it from being cast away by the storms of this eviwl orld.+ Heb. 6:19, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail.” It is spoken of as a great fruit and benefit which true saints receive by Christ’s resurrection: 1 Pet. 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The Scriptures place religion very much in the affection of love_, in love to God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and love to the people of God, and to mankind. The texts in which this is manifest, both in the Old Testament and New, are innumerable. But of this more afterwards.
The contrary affection of hatred also, as having sin for its object, is spoken of in Scripture as no inconsiderable part of true religion. It is spoken of as that by which true religion may be known and distinguished; Prov. 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” And accordingly the saints are called upon to give evidence of their sincerity by this P sal. 97:10, “Ye that love the Lord hate evil.” And the Psalmist often mentions it as an evidence of his sincerity; Psal. 2, 3, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes; I hate the work of them that turnaside.” Psal. 119:104, “I hate every false way Again, Psal. 139:21, “Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee?”
So holy desire, exercised in longings, hungerings, and thirstings after God and holiness, is often mentioned in Scripture as an important part of true religion; Isa. 26:8, “The desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.” Psal. 27:4, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” Psal. 42:1, 2, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God; my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?+ Psal. 63:1, 2, “My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” Psal. 84:1, 2, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” Psal. 119:20, “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.” So Psal. 73:25, and 143:6, 7, and 130:6. Cant. 3:1, 2, and 6:8. Such a holy desire and thirst of soul is mentioned, as one thing which renders or denotes a man truly blessed, in the beginning of Christs sermon on the mount, Matt. 5:6: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” And this holy thirst is spoken of, as a great thing in the condition of a participation of the blessings of eternal life; Rev. 21:6, “I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely.
The Scriptures speaks of holy joy, as a great part of true religion. So it is represented in the text. And as an important part of religion, it is often exhorted to, and pressed, with great earnestness;P sal. 37:4, “Delight thyself in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”Psal. 97:12, “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous.” So Psal. 33:1, “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous.” Matt. 5:12, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad.” Phil. 3:1, “Finally, brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” And chap. 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice.” 1 Thess. 5:16, “Rejoice evermore.” Psal. 149:2, “Let Israel rejoice in him that made him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.” This is mentioned among the principal fruits of the Spirit of grace; Gal. 5:21, “The fruit of the Spirit is love,” &. The Psalmist mentions his holy joy, as an evidence of his sincerity. sal. 119:14, “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.”
Religious sorrow, mourning, and brokenness of heart, are also frequently spoken of as a great part of true religion. These things are often mentioned as distinguishing qualities of the true saints, and a great part of their character; Matt. 5:4, “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Psal. 34:18, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Isa. 61:1, 2, “The Lord hath anointed me, to bind up the broken-hearted, to comfort all that mourn.” This godly sorrow and brokenness of heart is often spoken of, not only as a great thing in the distinguishing character of the saints, but that in them, which is peculiarly acceptable and pleasing to God; Psal. 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Isa. 57:15, “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Chap. 66:2, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit.”
Another affection often mentioned, as that in the exercise of which much of true religion appears, is gratitude; especially as exercised in thankfulness and praise to God. This being so much spoken of in the book of Psalms, and other parts of the holy Scriptures, I need not mention particular texts. Again, the holy Scriptures do frequently speak of compassion or mercy, as a very great and essential thing in true religion, insomuch that good men are in Scripture denominated from hence; and a merciful man and a good man are equivalent terms in Scripture; Isa. 57:1, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away.” And the Scripture chooses out this quality, as that by which, in a peculiar manner, a righteous man is deciphered; Psal. 37:21, “The righteous showeth mercy, and giveth;” and ver. 26, “He is ever merciful, and lendeth.” And Prov. 14:21, “He that honoreth the Lord, hath mercy on the poor.+ And Col. 3:12, “Put ye on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies,” & . This is one of those great things by which those who are truly blessed are described by our Savior; Matt. 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” And this Christ also speaks of, as one of the weightier matters of the law; Matt. 23:23, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” To the like purpose is that, Mic. 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?” And also that, Hos. 6:6 “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice.” Which seems to have been a text much delighted in by our Savior, by his manner of citing it once and again, Matt. 9:13, and 12:7.
Zeal is also spoken of, as a very essential part of the religion of true saints. It is spoken of as a great thing Christ had in view, in giving himself for our redemption; Tit. 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And this is spoken of, as the great thing wanting in the lukewarm Laodiceans, Rev. 3:15, 16, 19.
I have mentioned but a few texts, out of an innumerable multitude, all over the Scripture, which place religion very much in the affections. But what has been observed, may be sufficient to show that they who would deny that much of true religion lies in the affections, and maintain the contrary, must throw away what we have been wont to own for our Bible, and get some other rule, by which to judge of the nature of religion.