False Positive 11—That Affections Make a Person Confident that Their Experience is Divine and that They are in Good Estate. Part 2.

Tuesdays with Edwards!

For those who might be just joining us….

A Treatise Concerning
Religious Affections is one of Edwards’ most widely read and influential works, and has come to be viewed as a classic in Christian literature; its popularity and influence attested to by the fact that since its original publication in 1746 it has never been out of print.

In the second part of his book, Edwards outlines twelve signs which neither prove nor disprove one’s affections to be truly gracious. For each of these signs, Edwards shows why a spiritually healthy Christian would and even should exhibit these signs; and then shows why it should not be looked at as a certain sign that it is a proof of saving grace…though sometimes he reverses the order and does the negative before the positive.

So far we have seen that Edwards believed it doesn’t prove one way or the other that religious affections are truly spiritual because:

  1. They are raised very high.
  2. They have great effects on the body.
  3. They cause one to talk a lot about God and religion.
  4. They inexplicably come about.
  5. They come with passages of Scripture being brought to mind.
  6. That there is an appearance of love in them.
  7. That there are many kinds of religious affections together.
  8. That they come in a specific or commonly experienced order.
  9. That they dispose people to spend much time in religious activity.
  10. That they lead people to praise and glorify God.

In today’s post, we are continuing Edwards’ eleventh false positive: “that they make persons that have them, exceeding confident that what they experience is divine, and that they are in a good estate.” You can imagine that this needs some explaining, so he spends significantly more time on this. Last week Edwards made the point that there is good reason in the Bible for believing that a Christian can be confident in his or her salvation. In today’s selection, he concludes his assertion that assurance is something to be sought by all Christians.

You can read Religious Affections in its entirety at www.edwards.yale.edu. This selection is from Religious Affections, ed. John E, Smith, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959) Pages 169-170.


It further appears that assurance is not only attainable in some very extraordinary cases, that all Christians are directed to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, and are told how they may do it (II
Peter 1:5–8). And ’tis spoken of as a thing very unbecoming of Christians, and an argument of something very blamable in them, not to know whether Christ be in them or no; II Corinthians 13:5, “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” And ’tis implied that it is an argument of a very blamable negligence in Christians, if they practice Christianity after such a manner as to remain uncertain of the reward, in that,  I Corinthians 9:26, “I therefore so run, as not uncertainly.” And to add no more, it is manifest, that Christians knowing their interests in the saving benefits of Christianity is a thing ordinarily attainable, because the apostles tell us by what means Christians (and not only apostles and martyrs) were wont to know this; I Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” And 1 John 2:3, “And hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” And v. 5: “Hereby know we that we are in him.” Ch. 3:14, “We know that we are passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” V. 19, “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” V. 24, “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit that he hath given us.” So ch. 4:13 and ch. 5:2 and v. 19.

Therefore it must needs be very unreasonable to determine, that persons are hypocrites, and their affections wrong, because they seem to be out of doubt of their own salvation, and the affections they are the subjects of seem to banish all fears of hell.

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