The question now is, how do sinful people ever come to love God and have holy affections? God’s holiness is beautiful, and when it is seen by the spiritual sense of the heart, holy affections are present in the soul. When we really see God for who He is, we are drawn to Him. However, holy affections are completely absent from non-Christians because, “Natural men have no sense of the goodness and excellency of holy things, at least for their holiness; they have no taste for that kind of good” (188). Unbelievers are spiritually dead and blind to the glory of God, because they do not have the sense of the heart by which God’s beauty is seen. So even though a non-Christian’s mind may gain a notional understanding (head knowledge) of the gospel, his heart will not see its beauty, and thus will not be inclined toward it. And without this inclination of the heart there is no true religion.
So if holy affections are to be born, a major change must take place in the soul. A new sense of things must be obtained. New spiritual sight to see the glory of the gospel is necessary if holy affections are to be born. But sinners cannot give themselves spiritual sight. Instead, “they have that supernatural, most noble and divine sense given them,” by the Spirit of God (188). The birth of holy affections is a supernatural work. Edwards says of this process, “A saving belief of the reality and divinity of the things proposed and exhibited to us in the gospel, is from the Spirit of God’s enlightening the mind and causing it to have right apprehensions of the nature of [the gospel]” (222).
This enlightening of the mind by God is what happens during regeneration (being born again). The Spirit of God illumines the mind in such a way that it is able to perceive the spiritual reality of divine things and to see God for who He really is. This is a profound work described in the Bible as “opening the blind eyes, and raising the dead, and bringing a person into a new world” (200). When this supernatural work occurs, the intrinsic beauty of God becomes obvious to the heart of the sinner. He is able to see the glory of God in the gospel and is moved in his heart to embrace it. Holy affections have been born through the imparting of a new spiritual sense by the Spirit of God. The gracious work of the Spirit is always accompanied by holy affections.
This is why it is possible to hear the gospel over and over again. And then one day the lights come on and a person believes and comes to Christ. Dr. Morgan, a college professor of mine, used to describe it with the following illustration. Imagine being placed in the middle of a room with a blindfold. In one corner is fresh, great smelling pizza. In the other corner is millions of dollars. You are told to chose which corner you would like to go to. The blindfolded person will be drawn to the pizza. But when the blinders are taken off, the person will choose the millions of dollars every time. Once reality is seen correctly, God is obviously the most glorious and worthy person in the universe. This is why Paul, in 2 Cor. 4 talked of those who don't receive the gospel being blinded by Satan. We need to present the glory of God in Christ, manifested in the gospel, and pray that God will open blind eyes so they will see and sense the magnificence of Christ, and come to Him.