Edwards on Passions and Affections

There is an oft-cited explanation that Edwards gives toward the beginning of Religious Affections.

The affections and passions are frequently spoken of as the same; and yet in the more common use of speech, there is in some respect a difference; and affection is a word that in its ordinary signification, seems to be something more extensive than passion, being used for all vigorous lively actings of the will or inclination; but passion for those that are more sudden, and whose effects on the animal spirits are more violent, and the mind more overpowered, and less in its own command. [p. 98]

But, he is clearer and more explicit later in the volume about their connection to the soul’s faculties. Edwards argues against the genuineness of internal motions produced by “external ideas,” that they are no part of a person’s “spiritual experience.” External ideas merely impact man by way of the imagination–“affections…founded on imaginations.” He admits, “These imaginations do oftentimes raise the carnal affections of men to an exceeding great height,” explaining here in a footnote:

And as the motions of our sense, and fancy, and passions, while our souls are in this mortal condition, sunk down deeply into the body, are many times more vigorous, and make stronger impressions upon us, than those of the higher powers of the soul, which are more subtle, and remote from these mixed animal perceptions: that devotion which is there seated, may seem to have more energy and life in it, than that which gently and with a more delicate kind of touch spreads itself upon the understanding, and from thence mildly derives itself through our wills and affections. But however the former may be more boisterous for a time, yet this is of a more consistent, spermatical and thriving nature. For that proceeding indeed from nothing but a sensual and fleshly apprehension of God and true happiness, is but of a flitting and fading nature, and as the sensible powers and faculties grow more languid, or the sun of divine light shines more brightly upon us, these earthly devotions, like our culinary fires, will abate their heat and fervor. But a true celestial warmth will never be extinguished, because it is of an immortal nature; and being once seated vitally in the souls of men, it will regulate and order all the motions of it in a due manner the natural heat, radicated in the hearts of living creatures, hath the dominion and economy of the whole body under it. True religion is no piece of artifice, it is no boiling up of our imaginative powers, nor the glowing heats of passion, though these are too often mistaken for it, when in our jugglings in religion we cast a mist before our own eyes: but it is a new nature, informing the souls of men; it is a Godlike frame of spirit, discovering itself most of all in serene and clear minds, in deep humility, meekness, self-denial, universal love to God and all true goodness, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, whereby we are taught to know God, and knowing him to love him, and conform ourselves as much as may be to all that perfection which shines in him.

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Part III: The Distinguishing Signs), 218 [Yale, 1959].

Mountains, Mark Lopez

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=13993110&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=cccccc&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

SODT :: MOUNTAINS from Mark Lopez on Vimeo.

Mark Lopez from my small group put this together with some footage from the Smokey Mountains. See his website here. I love to see Christians who are expressing their theology in the arts.

This is a first of many (hopefully) in the series ‘Shadows of Divine Things’. They are based on the writings of Jonathan Edwards. He viewed almost everything in the physical world as a ‘type’ or a representation of something in the spiritual world.

As mountains are not ascended without difficulty and labor, and many rocks and steep places are in the way, so men don’t attain to anything eminent or of particular excellence without difficulty. It is against our natural tendency to ascend, but when we get above the clouds and winds, we will enjoy a perpetual serenity and calm. The perfect and uninterrupted calm on a high mountain is a type of the heavenly state.

– Mark

Quotable: Edwards

“If [Scripture] was made obscure and mysterious, and in many places having great difficulties, that his people might have exercise for their pious wisdom and study, and that his church might make progress in the understanding of it; as the philosophical world makes progress in the understanding of the book of nature, and unfolding the mysteries of it. And there is a divine wisdom appears in ordering of it thus: how much better is it to have divine truth and light break forth in this way, than it would have been, to have it shine at once to everyone without any labor or industry of the understanding. It would be less delightful, and less prized and valued and admired, and would have vastly less influence on men’s hearts, and would be less to the glory of God.”

Edwards, “Miscellanies,” a-500, 426.

Quotable: Edwards

How happy will that state be, when neither divine nor human learning shall be confined and imprisoned within only two or three nations of Europe, but shall be diffused all over the world, and this lower world shall be all over covered with light, the various parts of it mutually enlightening each other; when the most barbarous nations shall become as bright and polite as England; when ignorant heathen lands shall be stocked with most powerful divines and most learned philosophers; when we shall from time to time have the most excellent books and wonderful performances brought from one end of the earth and another to surprise us … when we shall have the great advantage of the sentiments of men of the most distant nations, different circumstances, custom and tempers; [when] learning shall not be restrained [by] the particular humor of a nation or their singular way of treating of things; when the distant extremes of the world shall shake hands together and all nations shall be acquainted, and they shall all join the forces of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the world to ring with his praise.”

Edwards, “Miscellanies,” a-500, 212-13

It is a tragedy that Edwards dream was not realized, that the educated nations would become the most barbarous. This is a legitimate tragedy. It is tempting to scoff at his naivety as if this is the only thing to be learned at such a ridiculous dream. But I wonder if we should instead hang our heads in sadness when we consider how the modern thirst for learning Edwards so obviously embraced turned so viciously on his metaphysical grounding. As science was making its advances who was there to notice the corresponding loss of faith? It is a tragedy that this glorious vision was never fulfilled:

“And they shall all join the forces of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the world to ring with his praise.”

Levels of Happiness in Heaven

I have recorded a section of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon on Romans 2:10. It lasts about seven minutes. The reason I recorded it is that I regard this section as the best thing I have ever read on the issue of varying degrees of reward and happiness and holiness in heaven. It is vintage Edwards. He has thought this through in an amazing way. It opens our eyes to the possibilities of heaven that we have never thought of before. If you want to read and ponder it for yourself, it comes from page 902 of the second volume of The Works of Jonathan Edwards.

J. Piper

Go to the blog

Speaking of Heart Matters, Jonathan Edwards in Original Sin

I think it is a contradiction to the nature of things as judged of by the common sense of mankind. It is agreeable to the sense of men, in all nations and ages, not only that the fruit or effect of a good choice is virtuous, but that the good choice itself, from whence that effect proceeds, is so; yea, also the antecedent food, disposition, temper, or affection of mind, from whence proceeds that good choice is virtuous. This is the general notion–not that the principles derive their goodness from actions, but–that actions derive their goodness from the principles whence they proceed; so that the act of choosing what is good, is no farther virtuous than it proceeds from a good principle or virtuous disposition of mind. Which supposes that a virtuous disposition of mind may be before a virtuous act of choice; and that, therefore, it is not necessary there should be first thought, reflection, and choice, before there can be any virtuous disposition. If the choice be first, before the existence of a good disposition of heart, what is the character of that choice? There can, according to our natural notions, be no virtue in a choice which proceeds from no virtuous principle, but from mere self love, ambition, or some animal appetites; therefore, a virtuous temper of mind may be before a good act of choice, as a tree may be before the fruit, and the fountain before the stream which proceeds from it.

Jonathan Edwards in Original Sin as cited by Chafer, Systematic Theology, pg. 164, Vol 2.

This is exactly why Christian Hedonism has force.

From Religious Affections

From Edwards, Jonathan. A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 1, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 2004.

If we be not in good earnest: in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigour in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious. True religion is evermore a powerful thing; and the power of it appears, in the first place, in its exercises in the heart, its principal and original seat. Hence true religion is called the power of godliness, in distinction from external appearances, which are the form of it, 2 Tim. iii. 5. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it.” The Spirit of God, in those who have sound solid religion, is a Spirit of powerful holy affection; and therefore, God is said “to have given them the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” (2 Tim. i. 7.) And such, when they receive the Spirit of God in his sanctifying and saving influences, are said to be “baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire;” By reason of the power and fervour of those exercises which the Spirit of God excites in them, and whereby their hearts, when grace is in exercise, may be said to burn within them. (Luke xxiv. 32.)

And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame and that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

Upon the whole, I think it clearly and abundantly evident, that true religion lies very much in the affections. Not that I think these arguments prove, that religion in the hearts of the truly godly, is ever in exact proportion to the deree of affection and present emotion of the mind…The degree of religion is to be estimated by the fixedness and strength of habit exercised in affection, whereby holy affection is habitual rather than by the degree of the present exercise:

If we ought ever to exercise our affections at all, and if the Creator has not unwisely constituted the human nature in making these principles part of it, then they ought to be exercised about those objects which are most worthy of them.