The Religious Affections: Part III (Point 12a)
My thoughts (and quotes) from the twelfth point of Part III
This is the last of 12 points Edwards offers from the scriptures to differentiate between true and false religious affections. Tim Challies, who is coordinating this reading, has split this point into two parts, because it is very lengthy. This is the first.
[xii] Gracious and holy affections have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice.
[In other words, religious affections in a genuine Christian result in holiness and right Christian practice.]
In this connection the word of God teaches:
1. Men should be universally obedient (obedient to all of God’s commands)
Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not
Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you
Saul was commanded to slay all . . . the Amalekites; and he slew all but Agag.
Naaman’s hypocrisy appeared in that . . . he seemed to be greatly affected with gratitude to God . . . yet in one thing he desired to be excused.
Herod though he feared John . . . and heard him gladly . . . would not hearken to him . . . in parting with his beloved Herodias.
It is necessary that men should part with their dearest iniquities . . . which they are most exposed to by their natural inclinations, evil customs, or particular circumstances . . .
As Joseph would not make himself known to his brethren . . . until Benjamin . . . was delivered up; no more will Christ reveal His love to us, until we part with our dearest lusts, and until we are brought to comply with the most difficult duties . . .
Sins of omission (not being serious, religious, devout, humble, meek, forgiving, peaceful, loving, etc.) are as much breaches of God’s commands as sins of commission (being a thief, oppressor, fraudulant person, drunkard, profane in language, reviler, etc.)
2. Men should practice the business of religion and the service of God with great earnestness and diligence, devoting themselves to it, and making it the main business of their lives.
zealous of good works.
God’s true servants, do give up themselves to His service, . . . employing their whole hearts and the chief of their strength.
Christians . . . are not called to idleness, but to labour in God’s vineyard . . .
All true Christians are good and faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, and fight the good fight of faith for none but those who do so ever lay hold on eternal life . . . The kingdom of heaven is not to be taken but by violence . . . we should watch and pray always . . . putting on the whole armour of God pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling.
Slothfulness . . . is as damning as open rebellion, for the slothful servant is a wicked servant . . . lay aside every weight, and the sin that easily besets them, and run with patience the race that is set before them.
This was typified . . . by the manner of the children of Israel’s feeding on the paschal lamb; . . . as those that were in haste, with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand.
3. Every true Christian perseveres in 1 and 2.
What is perseverance?
- Continuance of professors in the practice of their duty
- Steadfast in a holy walk through various trials they meet.
Trials/temptations are of various kinds:
- Some tend to stir up lusts and corruptions
- Some are of an alluring nature . . . having a tendency to entice people to sin . . . tendency to take off restraints and embolden them in iniquity
This point makes me feel that some of this light came from Edwards’ personal struggle with sin.
- Some have a tendency to make their duty appear terrible to them . . . such as sufferings which their duty will expose them to—pain . . . reproach and loss of outward possessions and comforts
Why God allows trials:
- To provide sufficient matter of conviction about the state of their souls to their own consciences
- To provide this proof to the world.
True saints may . . . fall into sin . . . But they never can fall away so as:
- to grow weary of religion . . .
- habitually to dislike it and neglect it
- not to stay with their practice of observing all the rules of Christianity
- habitually to be more engaged in other things than in the business of religion
- to serve something else more than God
- to cease to serve God with such earnestness and diligence
- to not have a remarkable difference in one’s life after conversion from what was before
True conversion involves:
- new men new creatures
- new not only within, but without
- being sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body
- old things are passed away, all things are become new
- new hearts, and new eyes, new ears, new tongues, new hands, new feet; i.e. a new conversation (behaviour) and practice
- walking in newness of life
- continuing to do so to the end of life
And they that fall away show visibly that they never were risen with Christ.
Power from Christ within
. . . gracious affections arise from . . . influences which are
spiritual . . .
a communication of God
a participation of the divine nature
Christ living in the heart
the Holy Spirit dwelling there in union with the faculties of the soul
For in the heart where Christ savingly is, there He lives and exerts Himself with power
The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power
The power of godliness is first shown in sensible, lively exercise of gracious affections in the heart
Yet the principal evidence of this power of godliness lies in conquering the will, the lusts and the corruptions of men.
Walking in the way of holiness through all temptation, difficulty and opposition.
Religion for its own excellence and not for self
When one seeks religion because of the excellence of divine things and not with selfish motives, one will be universally obedient.
This also shows why gracious affections will cause men to practice religion perseveringly, and at all times.
Because of their true spiritual knowledge they see Him worthy that they should forsake their all for Him.
A giving up of ourselves, with all that we have in our hearts, without making any reserve there, tends to our behaving ourselves universally as His, as subject to His will, and devoted to His ends.
The tendency of grace in the heart to holy practice is direct
Godliness in the heart has as direct a relation to practice as a fountain has to a stream . . .
The aim and end of regeneration is a holy practice.
In fact a holy practice is the goal of Christ’s finished work and the goal of our election.
Yea it is the very end of the redemption of Christ:
Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
This relationship of religious affections and a holy practice is typified of old in the frame of the golden candlestick in the temple. This is also a type of the church of Christ.
Every branch of the golden candlestick, thus composed with a burning shining lamp on the top of it.
The apples typified a fair and beautiful profession and the golden fruits typified the holy practice.
Together they are the amiable ornaments of the true church of Christ
This is true of the skirt of the ephod of Aaron. The skirts of Aaron’s garment represent the church, or the saints.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments!
The golden bells . . . represent the good profession that the saints make; and the pomegranates, the fruit they bring forth.
None but true Christians do live such an obedient life, so universally devoted to their duty . . . There is no hypocrite that will go through with the business of religion, and both begin and finish the tour . . . though they may appear exceeding strict, and mightily engaged in the service of God for a season . . . their lusts have yet a reigning power in their hearts; and therefore to these masters they will bow down again.
Lessons to be learned from the example of Pharaoh
Edwards compares the way Pharaoh did not let God’s people go with the way men deal with their closest sins.
When God’s hand pressed Pharaoh sore, and he was exercised with fears of God’s future wrath, he entertained some thoughts of letting the people go, and promised he would do it; but from time to time he broke his promises, when he saw there was respite. (Oh dear! I can relate to this so well. I wonder if Edwards also struggled with sins as I do.)
Moses insisted that Israel’s God should be served and sacrificed to: Pharaoh was willing to consent to that but would have it done without his parting with the people . . . So many sinners are for contriving to serve God and enjoy their lusts too.
Edwards then shows how sinners are willing to part with some of their sins, but not all (how Pharaoh consented to let the men go, if they would leave the women and children.)
Where as we must part with all our sins, little and great . . . there must not be a hoof left behind.
Finally when there was no other recourse Pharaoh consented . . . but he was not steadfastly of that mind; he soon repented and pursued after them again . . .
Thus there may be a forced parting with ways of disobedience to the command of God, that may seem to be universal . . . but . . . sinners will not persevere in it.
Edwards feels that Christian practice or a holy life is . . . the chief of all the signs of grace. But we need to know in what ways this is so, and this we shall see in Point 12b.
[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.]