Some who rejected the entire Great Awakening as a work of God also denied religious affections as necessary to the Christian life. For them, faith involved reason and the intellect only, not the affections. For Edwards, however, this was a serious error with enormous negative consequences—new life in Christ does not exist where religious affections are absent.
“Love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Indeed, “lukewarm” believers are odious to Christ (Revelation 3:16). “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” Christ tells us (Matthew 10:37). The Christian life involves a deep and fervent love of God.
We do little to nothing without affections stirring our actions. “Such is man’s nature that he is very inactive, any otherwise than he is influenced by some affection, either love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, or some other.”  “He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.” 
Edwards believed Scripture, intellectually understood and applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit, to be God’s primary means of moving the affections. Yet, people never flee sin and embrace Christ from intellectual knowledge alone.
Never was a natural man engaged earnestly to seek his salvation; never were any such brought to cry after wisdom, and lift up their voice for understanding, and to wrestle with God in prayer for mercy; and never was one humbled and brought to the foot of God, from anything that ever he heard or imagined of his own unworthiness and deserving of God’s displeasure; nor was ever one induced to fly for refuge unto Christ, while his heart remained unaffected.” 
“The holy Scriptures do everywhere place religion very much in the affections; such as fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion, and zeal.”  “The fear of God is a great part of true godliness.” We are saved “unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10a). “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:2). “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “Put ye on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering patience” (Colossians 3:12).
Above all, love forms the foremost and fountain of all affections. “The essence of all true religion lies in holy love; and that in this divine affection, and an habitual disposition to it, and that light which is the foundation of it, and those things which are the fruits of it, consists the whole of religion.” 
David’s profound affections for God cascade from the pages of the Psalms.
Those holy songs of his he has there left us are nothing else but the expressions and breathings of devout and holy affections; such as an humble and fervent love to God, admiration of His glorious perfections and wonderful works, earnest desires, thirstings, and pantings of soul after God, delight and joy in God, a sweet and melting gratitude to God for His great goodness, a holy exultation and triumph of soul in the favour, sufficiency, and faithfulness of God, his love to and delight in the saints, the excellent of the earth, his great delight in the Word and ordinances of God, his grief for his own and the others’ sins, and his fervent zeal for God and against the enemies of God and his church.” 
Paul’s epistles glow with love to God and His people and anger toward their enemies. Joy flows from his prison cell to the Philippians, while tears stain his words to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 2:4). And none can miss the affections of the Apostle John.
Above all, Christ “was the greatest instance of ardency, vigour and strength of love, to both God and man, that ever was.”  Zeal for His Father’s honor moved Him to cleanse the temple (John 2:13-17); He cried with Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35-38), was compassionate to the sick and hurting (Luke 7:13), and distraught at Jerusalem’s impending destruction (Luke 19:41-44).
“The way to learn the true nature of anything is to go where that thing is to be found in its purity and perfection.”  Heaven will overflow with affection for God and each other. “In thy presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).
While our prayers cannot inform God’s perfect knowledge, they “affect our own hearts with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask.”  Moreover, God designed prayer, praise, the “sacraments,” and the preaching of His Word to move our hearts. “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…that these things have a tendency to move our affections.”  The “lively application” of the great truths of the Gospel through preaching and the visible representation of truth in baptism and communion is designed to instruct us and move our affections. 
Christ grew angry and grieved at hard hearts (Mark 3:5), while rocklike hearts produced Israel’s disobedience: “They will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted” (Ezekiel 3:7). Indeed, the New Covenant includes the promise of a new heart: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19)
In his typical, thorough fashion, Edwards summarizes the importance of both intellectual understanding and religious affections to the Christian life:
Although to true religion there must indeed be something else besides affection, yet true religion consists so much in the affections that there can be no true religion without them. He who has no religious affection is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon His heart. As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As, on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding as well as an affected fervent heart; where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so, on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light; that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things.”
In Part 5 we will examine the first of twelve “uncertain” signs of true or false affections—great and high religious affections.
 BT, 29; Yale, 101.
 BT, 30; Yale, 101.
 BT, 30-31; Yale, 102.
 BT, 31; Yale, 102.
 BT, 36; Yale, 107.
 BT, 37; Yale, 108.
 BT, 40; Yale, 111.
 BT, 43; Yale, 114.
 BT, 43-44; Yale, 114-115.
 BT, 44; Yale, 115.
 BT, 44-45; Yale, 115-116.
 BT, 49-50; Yale, 120.
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© 2017 Craig Biehl, author of God the Reason, The Box, The Infinite Merit of Christ, and Reading Religious Affections
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