Yesterday I said I would post today concerning the nature of holy affections. Well, I'm going to have to bump that back a day. I needed to say a little something about how not all religious affections are necessarily signs of true salvation. If I would have talked about both in the same day it would have been too long. So read this short post today, and I will come back tomorrow with a foundational post on the nature of holy affections.
Once affections are accepted as an essential part of true religion, it does not suddenly become simple to discern the presence of true religion in a heart. During the Great Awakening there were many who recognized all manifestations of fervent religious affections as signs of grace. These advocates of emotional expression were labeled “enthusiasts” by some of their opponents. Edwards cautions against their undiscerning acceptance. He points out that all religious affections are not created equal. “There are false affections, and there are true. A man’s having much affection, does not prove that he has any true religion” (50).
In Part Two of Religious Affections, Edwards describes twelve displays of affections that are often falsely looked upon as sure signs of true religion. These twelve neutral signs display Edwards’ excellent pastoral discernment. The first point in the section is that “it is no sign one way or the other that religious affections are very great, or raised very high” (54). The second unreliable sign is the effect of emotion upon the body. It is clear that Edwards is not advocating a shallow emotionalism or enthusiasm. The nature of affections, rather than the intensity of them, is of primary importance. Other neutral signs include great zeal in religious duties, much religious talk, powerful testimonies of conversion, the appearance of love, or a high degree of confidence. All of these affections are inconclusive in determining the presence of grace in the soul. They neither prove a person is a Christian, nor do they demonstrate he is not. These neutral signs may flow from the heart of a true Christian, or they may be incited by other sources, such as the general or preparatory work of the Holy Spirit, or from Satan.