My thoughts (and quotes) from the first point of Part III

I]   Affections that are truly spiritual and gracious do arise from those influences and operations on the heart which are spiritual, supernatural and divine.

  • ‘Spiritual man’ refers to a sanctified person or saint.
    . . . if by natural and carnal . . . be intended unsanctified, then doubtless by spiritual . . . is meant sanctified and gracious.
  • The word ‘spiritual’ in the Bible (for example as in “spiritual man’) refers to the relation to the Holy Spirit. Qualities are not said to be spiritual, because they have their seat in the soul and not in the body.
  • Thus Christians are called spiritual persons because they are born of the Spirit, and because of the indwelling and holy influences of the Spirit of God in them.
  • They who have only the common influences of God’s Spirit are not so called. . .
    For it was not by men’s having the gifts of the Spirit, but by their having the virtues of the Spirit, that they were called spiritual. . .
    . . . natural men may be the subjects of many influences of the Spirit of God . . . yet they are not, in the sense of the Scripture, spiritual persons. . . The great difference lies in these two things:

    1. The Holy Spirit lives in spiritual people and causes them to shine from the inside. The Holy Spirit may shine upon carnal people too but only as a light on a dark object.
    2. The grace which is in the hearts of the saints is of the same nature with the divine holiness, as much as it is possible for that holiness to be which is infinitely less in degree . . .
      He never acts disagreeably to His nature, either on the minds of saints or sinners . . . Thus, for instance, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and there was nothing disagreeable to His nature in that action; but yet He did not at all communicate Himself in that action . . . And so He may act upon the minds of men many ways, and not communicate Himself any more than when He acts on inanimate things. . . So that not only the persons are called spiritual, as having the Spirit of God dwelling in them, but those qualifications, affections, and experiences, that are wrought in them by the Spirit are also spiritual . . . There is no work so high and excellent, for there is no work wherein God doth so much communicate Himself, and wherein the mere creature hath, in so high a sense, a participation of God . . .
      scripture1 2 Pet 1:4 “having God dwelling in them, and they in God”

      2 Cor 6:16 “being the temples of the living God”
      Heb 12:10 “being made partakers of God’s holiness”
      John 17:13 ” having His joy fulfilled in them”
      . . . Not that the saints are made partakers of the essence of God, and are so godded with God, and christed with Christ, which is blasphemous, but to use the Scripture phrase, they are made partakers of God’s fulness.
      They (natural men) not only have not these communications of the Spirit of God in so high a degree as the saints, but have nothing of that nature of kind.
  • And natural men are represented in Scripture as having no spiritual light, no spiritual life, and no spiritual being; and therefore conversion is often compared to opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, and a work of creation . . . and becoming new-born children . . . From these things it is evident that those gracious influences which the saints are subjects of, and the effects of God’s Spirit which they experience, are entirely above nature . . . And this is what I mean by supernatural, when I say that gracious affections are from those influences that are supernatural.
  • something is perceived by a true saint, in the exercise of this new sense of mind in spiritual and divine things, as entirely diverse from anything that is perceived in them by natural men, as the sweet taste of honey is diverse from the ideas men get of honey by looking on and feeling it. The difference is not like two people smelling two different smells but as experiencing different sensations, say one smelling and the other touching. . . . Hence the work of the Spirit of God in regeneration is often in Scripture compared to the giving of a new sense, giving eyes to see and ears to hear, unstopping the ears of the deaf, and opening the eyes of them that were born blind. . .
  • So this new spiritual sense is not a new faculty of understanding, but it is a new foundation laid in the nature of the soul for a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of understanding. So that new holy disposition of heart that attends this new sense is not a new faculty of will, but a foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of the will.
  • when the Spirit of God gives a natural man visions etc. as he did in Balaam, He only impresses a natural principle, which in Balaam’s case was the sense of seeing . . . But the Spirit of God in His spiritual influences on the hearts of His saints, operates by infusing or exercising new, divine, and supernatural principles; principles which are indeed a new and spiritual nature, and principles vastly more noble and excellent than all that is in natural men. The carnal man cannot discern this, just as a man born deaf cannot conceive of the melody of a tune, or a man who is blind from birth cannot understand the beauty of a rainbow.

    1. On the one hand . . . not everything that is related to spiritual affections is new and entirely different from what natural men can conceive of and experience. For example, a saint’s love to God has a great many things . . . which are common with a man’s natural love for a loved one. . . . But yet that idea which the saint has of the loveliness of God, and that kind of delight he has in that view which is as it were the marrow and quintessence of his love, is peculiar and altogether different.
      Suppose a blind man loves eating apples. Suppose another man with no sense of taste, loves the beauty of apples, both love, both desire, and both delight; but their loves are so different. The saint’s perception is different, more excellent, more noble, but not necessarily in greater degree.
    2. On the other hand . . . a natural man may have religious apprehensions and affections, which may be . . . very new and surprising to him . . . This may be from some extraordinary powerful influence of Satan, and some great delusion . . . As if a poor man that had always dwelt in a cottage . . . should . . . be taken to a magnificent city and prince’s court, and there arrayed in princely robes and set on the throne . . . and should be made to believe that he was now a glorious monarch. The emotions he experiences may be new and exciting, but they are all well within the range of natural emotions, not requiring a new sense altogether.
  • The rest of this point is an elaborate treatise on how the experiences of many are mere delusions and not truly spiritual.
    • Definition of imagination: When a person has an idea or image of things in his mind, when they are not there, and when he does not really see, hear, smell, taste, nor feel them;
    • Many people who have imaginations mistake them for spiritual discoveries. Whether of Christ hanging on the cross, of Christ with outstretched arms to embrace them, of Christ on His throne, Of Christ with a beautiful face smiling at them, of Christ speaking kind words to them, and the like.
    • This low miserable notion of spiritual sense turns the concept of the divine nature into something perceivable by our biological/animal bodies.
    • Weak people imagine more.
    • Even if men should actually receive such external ideas by the immediate power of the Most High God upon their minds, they would not be spiritual, they would be no more than a common work of the Spirit of God.
    • Satan can give such experiences to carnal men, maybe using biochemical changes in the brain or whatever. Examples of unspiritual experiences:
    • False prophets under the influence of lying spirits
    • Satan showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world
    • False spiritual experiences of people who find scriptures being brought to mind suddenly—they are more taken with the experience than the deep meaning of the text.
    • If a sinner be once convinced of the veracity of God, and that the Scriptures are His word, he will need no more to convince and satisfy him that he is invite; for the Scriptures are full of invitations to sinners . . .
    • Are there then no particular spiritual applications of the promises of scripture by the Holy Spirit? A spiritual application of the word of God consists in applying it to the heart, in spiritually enlightening, sanctifying influences.
    • What about the witness of the Spirit? That which many call the witness of the Spirit is no other than an immediate suggestion and impression of the fact, otherwise secret, that they are . . . children of God. What does the Bible say about this? This is otherwise known as the seal of the Holy Spirit. The seal of the Spirit is an effect of the Spirit of God on the heart, which natural men, while such, are so far away from a capacity of being the subjects of, that they have no manner of notion or idea of it. The seal of the Spirit or the witness of the Spirit is not a suggestion to the person about their conversion; rather it is a stamp or an impression on the person by which he can be known as God’s child. This stamp is nothing but God’s own image. This truly is an effect that is spiritual, supernatural, and divine.
    • God’s children have a noble spirit of love, which naturally disposes us to go to God, as children to a Father, and behave towards God as children, as against the spirit of slaves. . . . the Spirit of God gives the evidence by infusing and shedding abroad the love of God, the spirit of a child, in the heart, and our spirit or conscience receives and declares this evidence for our rejoicing.
    • This delusion in carnal men about the witness of the Spirit has caused great harm. And it is to be feared that multitudes of souls have been eternally undone by it.

[Tim Challies has a blog feature called Reading Classics, where he and many other online friends read a selected Christian classic in a synchronized way and share their views. The classic being studied currently is The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.]

Click here to get to other posts in this and Tim Challies’ blog