Tag Archives: Religious Affections

“To know God is to live” by Herman Bavinck

“Mystery is the lifeblood of theological reflection. From the start of its labors, dogmatic theology is shrouded in mystery. It stands before God the incomprehensible One.

This knowledge leads to adoration and worship: to know God is to live.

Knowing God is possible for us because God is personal, exalted above the earth and yet in fellowship with human beings on earth. Good theology puts this knowledge of God on public display.

It resists allowing theology to degenerate into rhetoric, a theology merely of words. It seeks the heart of the matter, knowing God in order to worship Him, to love Him, and to serve Him.

Such theology is never a dry and academic exercise. It is eminently practical and superlatively fruitful for life.

The knowledge of God in Christ, after all, is life itself (Psalm 89:16; Isaiah 11:9; Jeremiah 31:34; John 17:3).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Abridged in One Volume, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011), 147-148.

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“The tallest and strongest saint” by Jonathan Edwards

“All gracious affections have a tendency to promote this Christian tenderness of heart, that has been spoken of: not only a godly sorrow; but also a gracious joy; Psalms 2:11, ‘Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.’

As also a gracious hope; Psalms 33:18, ‘Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.’ And Psalms 147:11, ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, and in them that hope in his mercy.’

Yea the most confident and assured hope, that is truly gracious, has this tendency. The higher an holy hope is raised, the more there is of this Christian tenderness.

The banishing of a servile fear, by a holy assurance, is attended with a proportionable increase of a reverential fear.

The diminishing of the fear of the fruits of God’s displeasure in future punishment, is attended with a proportionable increase of fear of his displeasure itself: the diminishing of the fear of hell, with an increase of the fear of sin.

The vanishing of jealousies of the person’s state, is attended with a proportionable increase of jealousy of his heart, in a distrust of its strength, wisdom, stability, faithfulness, etc.

The less apt he is to be afraid of natural evil, having “his heart fixed, trusting in God,” and so, “not afraid of evil tidings” [Psalms 112:7]; the more apt is he to be alarmed with the appearance of moral evil, or the evil of sin.

As he has more holy boldness, so he has less of self-confidence, and a forward assuming boldness, and more modesty. As he is more sure than others of deliverance from hell, so he has more of a sense of the desert of it.

He is less apt than others to be shaken in faith; but more apt than others to be moved with solemn warnings, and with God’s frowns, and with the calamities of others.

He has the firmest comfort, but the softest heart: richer than others, but poorest of all in spirit: the tallest and strongest saint, but the least and tenderest child amongst them.”

–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), 364.

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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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“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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“As high as I possibly can” by Jonathan Edwards

“I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.”

–Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections, in Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), 238.

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