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Reading Classics – The Religious Affections (XV)

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We made it! This marks the final reading in Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections. I hesitated for a while before suggesting that we read a 380-page book together, but we did it. And what a read it was. My only real regret is that I feel like I have only skimmed the surface. In his companion volume to this book, Sam Storms says that he had to read the Affections many times through to have any confidence that he knew what Edwards was saying. I am sure that is a near-necessity. While I know I’ve learned a lot from the book, I know also that I could read it again and benefit just as much. Someday I’ll have to do that.

This week we read a rather lengthy portion of the book–Edwards’ twelfth and final mark of genuine religious affections–that they have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice. He saved the best and most important mark for last and, over 80 pages, proved time and time again that a Christian’s confidence in his salvation is to be found primarily in his practice of the Christian faith. A person will know he is a Christian if he is inwardly and outwardly conformed to the image of Christ. As Edwards says, “Christian practice is the most proper evidence of the gracious sincerity of professors, to themselves and others; and the chief of all the marks of grace, the sign of signs, and evidence of evidences, that which seals and crowns all other signs.”

Instead of interacting with all 80 pages of this week’s reading, I thought I’d simply share some of the quotes I highlighted. These will give the flavor of all Edwards had to say.

“Hypocrites may much more easily be brought to talk like saints, than to act like saints.”

“In order to a man’s being properly said to make a profession of Christianity, there must undoubtedly be a profession of all that is necessary to his being a Christian, or of so much as belongs to the essence of Christianity.”

“No external manifestations and outward appearances whatsoever, that are visible to the world, are infallible evidences of grace.”

“A man’s actions are the proper trial what a man’s heart prefers.”

“The things that put it to the proof whether men will prefer God to other things in practice, are the difficulties of religion, or those things which occur that make the practice of duty difficult and cross to other principles beside the love of God.”

“If we put true gold into the furnace, we shall find its great value and preciousness: so the truth and inestimable value of the virtues of a true Christian appear when under these trials.”

“God’s future judging of men, in order to their eternal retribution, will not be his trying, and finding out, and passing a judgment upon the state of men’s hearts, in his own mind; but it will be, a declarative judgment; and the end of it will be, not God’s forming a judgment within himself, but the manifestation of his judgment, and the righteousness of it, to men’s own consciences, and to the world. And therefore the day of judgment is called the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

“Certainly that which our supreme Judge will chiefly make use of to judge us by, when we come to stand before him, we should chiefly make use of, to judge ourselves by.”

And that’s it for The Religious Affections. Please feel free to add comments, share your experiences, and so on. If you’d like to suggest the next book we read together, feel free to leave a comment on that as well. We’ll start our next round of Reading Classics Together in a few weeks.

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