To this point the “Reading Classics Together” effort has gone very well, at least by my assessment. We’ve read J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation and A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. We’ve had hundreds of people participate by reading the books together and discussing them each week. All along we’ve been reading some of the classics of the Christian faith—books many of us wish to read but books few of us have ever made time for. And now it is time to decide on the next classic we’ll read together.
There are two names that were continually in my mind as I pondered where we should go next: John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards. The potential trouble with both of these men is that their seminal works are, in a word, long. If we are to read a long work I wonder if I may just be reading alone by the end. Regardless, I have decided that works of this quality will be worth it. And so I am proposing that our next book be The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards (all 350+ pages of it).
Here is what the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University says about the work:
A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections stands as Edwards’s most penetrating interpretation of the awakenings of his time, not to mention one of the most penetrating of any time. As in Some Thoughts, he argued against the extremes of emotionalism on the one hand and intellectualism on the other. Affections were essential to true religion, but they had to be tested. First, Edwards lays out his religious psychology of affections, which encompassed both understanding and will and involved the total range of human faculties. Answering critics of the revival, Edwards then discusses at length a series of “negative” signs, or unreliable criteria for judging the graciousness of affections. Finally, and most famously, he provided twelve “positive” signs for self-examination. The twelfth sign, which Edwards gave the fullest treatment, was the importance of Christian practice as evidence of the state of the heart. Here, for Edwards, was the ultimate standard for visible sainthood.
It is going to be a demanding read, and something of a long one, but I know the payoff will be worth every second spent in the book.
I will be reading from the Banner of Truth edition of the work, but you can follow along in any of the unabridged editions (of which there are many available). For technophiles, there is a Kindle edition available for only a couple of dollars. For those who are not interested in spending money, CCEL has the complete text available in HTML, PDF and other formats right here.
We will target July 17 as our start date. That gives you three full weeks to secure a copy and to read the Introduction and Preface. Then, every Thursday following, we’ll read a portion of the text and discuss it together.
It would be a helpful gauge of participation if you’d post a comment on this post indicating that you’d like to read this book with us. So if you are going to read along, let me know, either with a comment or a quick email. I’m looking forward to reading this next classic with you!