Category Archives: Religious Affections

“The most important business of your life” by George Mueller

“We have, through the goodness of the Lord, been permitted to enter upon another year, and the minds of many among us will no doubt be occupied with plans for the future and the various fears of our work and service for the Lord.

If our lives are spared, we shall be engaged in those: the welfare of our families, the prosperity of our business, our work and service for Christ may be considered the most important matters to be attended to; but according to my judgment the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord.

Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life.

This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.

But in what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How shall we obtain such an all-sufficient, soul-satisfying portion in Him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison?

 I answer, this happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the Scriptures, by the power of the Holy Ghost, He makes Himself known unto our souls… [Therefore] The very earliest portion of the day we can command should be devoted to the meditation on Scriptures. 

Our souls should feed upon the Word…. This intimate experimental acquaintance with Him will make us truly happy.

Nothing else will…. In God our Father, and the blessed Jesus, our souls have a rich, divine, imperishable, eternal treasure. Let us enter into practical possession of these true riches; yea, let the remaining days of our earthly pilgrimage be spent in an ever increasing, devoted, earnest consecration of our souls to God.”

–George Mueller, A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Mueller, Written by Himself (Muskegon, Mich.: Dust and Ashes Publications, 2003), 730-732. It is excerpted from a sermon the 59-year-old Mueller preached to his congregation at a New Year’s service.

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“Religious affections” by J.C. Ryle

“The second caution that we learn from the parable of the sower, is to beware of resting on mere temporary impressions when we have heard the word. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of some hearers are like rocky ground.

The seed of the word springs up immediately, as soon as they hear it, and bears a crop of joyful impressions, and pleasurable emotions. But these impressions, unhappily, are only on the surface. There is no deep and abiding work done in their souls.

And hence, so soon as the scorching heat of temptation or persecution begins to be felt, the little bit of religion which they seemed to have attained, withers and vanishes away.

Feelings, no doubt, fill a most important office in our personal Christianity. Without them there can be no saving religion. Hope, and joy, and peace, and confidence, and resignation, and love, and fear, are things which must be felt, if they really exist.

But it must never be forgotten that there are religious affections, which are spurious and false, and spring from nothing better than animal excitement. It is quite possible to feel great pleasure, or deep alarm, under the preaching of the Gospel, and yet to be utterly destitute of the grace of God.

The tears of some hearers of sermons, and the extravagant delight of others, are no certain marks of conversion. We may be warm admirers of favorite preachers, and yet remain nothing better than stony-ground hearers.

Nothing should content us but a deep, humbling, self-mortifying work of the Holy Ghost, and a heart-union with Christ.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (vol. 1; New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 251–252.

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“Live much in the smiles of God” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable.

‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ Jeremiah 17:9.

Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!

Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in His almighty arms.

Cry after divine knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding. Seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasure, according to the word in Proverbs 2:4.

See that Proverbs 2:10 be fulfilled in you. Let wisdom enter into your hearts, and knowledge be pleasant to thy soul; so you will be delivered from the snares mentioned in the following verses.

Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him.

Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.

I must now commend you all to God and the word of His grace. My dear people are just assembled for worship.

Alas! I cannot preach to them tonight. I can only carry them and you on my heart to the throne of grace. Write me soon.

Ever yours,

Robert Murray M’Cheyne”

–Robert Murray McCheyne, “Letter to Mr. George Shaw of Belfast (9/16/1840)” in Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 252.

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“Life itself” by Herman Bavinck

“Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics. To be sure, the term ‘mystery’ (μυστηριον) in Scripture does not mean an abstract supernatural truth in the Roman Catholic sense. Yet Scripture is equally far removed from the idea that believers can grasp the revealed mysteries in a scientific sense.

In truth, the knowledge that God has revealed of Himself in nature and Scripture far surpasses human imagination and understanding. In that sense it is all mystery with which the science of dogmatics is concerned, for it does not deal with finite creatures, but from beginning to end looks past all creatures and focuses on the eternal and infinite One Himself.

From the very start of its labors, it faces the incomprehensible One. From Him it derives its inception, for from Him are all things. But also in the remaining loci, when it turns its attention to creatures, it views them only in relation to God as they exist from Him and through Him and for Him [Rom. 11:36].

So then, the knowledge of God is the only dogma, the exclusive content, of the entire field of dogmatics. All the doctrines treated in dogmatics—whether they concern the universe, humanity, Christ, and so forth—are but the explication of the one central dogma of the knowledge of God.

All things are considered in light of God, subsumed under Him, traced back to Him as the starting point. Dogmatics is always called upon to ponder and describe God and God alone, whose glory is in creation and re-creation, in nature and grace, in the world and in the church. It is the knowledge of Him alone that dogmatics must put on display.

By pursuing this aim, dogmatics does not become a dry and academic exercise, without practical usefulness for life. The more it reflects on God, the knowledge of whom is its only content, the more it will be moved to adoration and worship.

Only if it never forgets to think and speak about matters rather than about mere words, only if it remains a theology of facts and does not degenerate into a theology of rhetoric, only then is dogmatics as the scientific description of the knowledge of God also superlatively fruitful for life.

The knowledge of God-in-Christ, after all, is life itself (Ps. 89:16; Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34; John 17:3).”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 29.

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“God requires the heart” by Richard Sibbes

“God requires the heart; and religion is most in managing and tuning the affections, for they are the wind that carries the soul to every duty. A man is like the dead sea without affections. Religion is most in them.

The devil hath brain enough, he knows enough, more than any of us all. But then he hates God. He hath no love to God, nor no fear of God, but only a slavish fear. He hath not this reverential fear, childlike fear.

Therefore let us make it good that we are the servants of God, especially by our affections, and chiefly by this of fear, which is put for all the worship of God.”

–Richard Sibbes, “The Spiritual Favourite at the Throne of Grace,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 6, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 97.

[HT: Justin Perdue]

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“An earnest beggar for grace” by Jonathan Edwards

“The more persons have of holy affections, the more they have of that spiritual taste whereby they perceive the excellency, and relish the divine sweetness, of holiness.

And the more grace they have, while in this state of imperfection, the more they see their imperfection and emptiness, and distance from what ought to be. And so the more do they see their need of grace…

Therefore the cry of every true grace is like that cry of true faith, ‘Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24). And the greater spiritual discoveries and affections the true Christian has, the more does he become an earnest beggar for grace and spiritual food, that he may grow.

And the more earnestly does he pursue it by all proper means and endeavors, for true and gracious longings after holiness are no idle ineffectual desires.”

–Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1754), in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, Ed. Paul Ramsey (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), 378.

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“Religious Affections” by Jonathan Edwards

“God has given to mankind affections, for the same purpose which he has given all the faculties and principles of the human soul for, that they might be subservient to man’s chief end, and the great business for which God has created him, that is the business of religion.

And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters, than in religion! In things which concern men’s worldly interest, their outward delights, their honor and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent.

In these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at worldly losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity.

But how insensible and unmoved are most men, about the great things of another world! How dull are their affections! How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters! Here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small.

How they can sit and hear of the infinite height and depth and length and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of His giving His infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, holy and tender Lamb of God, manifested in His dying agonies, His bloody sweat, His loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory… and yet be cold, and heavy, insensible, and regardless!

Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here? What is it that does more require them? And what can be a fit occasion of their lively and vigorous exercise, if not such a one as this? Can anything be set in our view, greater and more important? Anything more wonderful and surprising? Or more nearly concerning our interest?

Is there anything, which Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope, and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

The glory and beauty of the blessed Jehovah, which is most worthy in itself, to be the object of our admiration and love, is there exhibited in the most affecting manner that can be conceived of, as it appears shining in all its luster, in the face of an incarnate, infinitely loving, meek, compassionate, dying Redeemer.

All the virtues of the Lamb of God, His humility, patience, meekness, submission, obedience, love and compassion, are exhibited to our view.”

–Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1754), in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, Ed. Paul Ramsey (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), 122-124.

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