In sign two Edwards argued that gracious affections stand on the excellence of God, apart from self-interest. Sign three goes further to show that holiness comprises the beauty of the excellence of God and divine things. “A love to divine things for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency, is the first beginning and spring of all holy affections.”  In sign four, Edwards explains that gracious affections arise from the Holy Spirit giving the believer a spiritual sense to see, comprehend, and love the beauty of God’s holiness.
Divine illumination involves new light and knowledge in the understanding, but no new revelation. The believer’s affections move by understanding more about God, Christ, the Gospel, and divine things. “Holy affections are not heat without light.”  Indeed, zeal without knowledge can lead to eternal destruction, as with Israel stumbling over Christ, “for I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Holy affections flow from knowing God’s holy excellence.
Spiritual illumination does not consist of a mental picture or vision of Christ hanging on the cross with blood flowing from His hands, a body of great light, sounds and voices, or anything that can be imagined by the mind. People are “never the wiser by such things” without truth and instruction about God, Christ, and the Gospel. 
By God’s common grace, both believers and unbelievers can know truth about God’s power, greatness, and sin. For instance, the Holy Spirit often excites the unbeliever’s conscience and “assists the mind to a clearer idea of the guilt of sin, or its relation to punishment, and its connection with the evil of suffering,” including greater sight of God’s “natural perfections” and “terrible greatness,” without opening spiritual eyes to the ugliness of sin in the light of God’s holiness.  Unbelievers can see, understand, and fear God’s power and condemnation, but cannot see and love the beauty of God’s holiness and justice.
Moreover, “A man might know how to interpret all the types, parables, enigmas, and allegories in the Bible,” and even write accurate Bible commentaries, yet “not have one beam of spiritual light in his mind.” Without the “spiritual sense of the holy beauty of divine things,” he remains spiritually blind. 
During the Awakening, many were greatly moved in their affections by the immediate, unexpected, coincidental, or seemingly supernatural way Scripture came to mind. But, “Affections arising from texts of Scripture coming to the mind are vain, when no instruction received in the understanding from those texts, or anything taught in those texts, is the ground of the affection, but the manner of their coming to the mind.” 
Believers see what has always been true and visible, but formerly unseen because of blindness.  The work of the Holy Spirit in illumination “is not to make new and unheard-of revelations, or to coin some new kind of doctrine, by which we may be led away from the received doctrine of the gospel; but to seal and confirm to us that very doctrine which is by the gospel.”  “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18), namely, things already there.
Imagine someone going to Egypt because the following verse came to mind: “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt” (Matthew 2:13). Yet, the text tells no one alive today to flee to Egypt.  Hopefully, people using the mistaken principle of interpretation will not read of Judas hanging himself and then come across the text, “go ye and do likewise.” Context determines the meaning of a text.
Moreover, Scripture verses about God’s love and salvation popping into a mind makes no one a Christian. Saving faith in Christ, alone, makes one a Christian. And, nowhere does Scripture say that John Doe, in particular, is saved, or that salvation is by Bible verses coming to mind apart from saving faith.  Assurance of salvation lies elsewhere.
True and gracious affections arise from “a new understanding of the excellent nature of God and His wonderful perfections, some new view of Christ in His spiritual excellencies and fullness.”  It “consists in ‘a cordial sense of the supreme beauty and sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of divine things, together with all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion, that depends upon and flows from such a sense.’”  “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Spiritually to understand the Scripture is to have the eyes of the mind opened, to behold the wonderful spiritual excellency of the glorious things contained in the true meaning of it and that always were contained in it, ever since it was written; to behold the amiable and bright manifestations of the divine perfections, and of the excellency and sufficiency of Christ, and the excellency and suitableness of the way of salvation by Christ, and the spiritual glory of the precepts and promises of the Scripture, etc., which things are, and always were, in the Bible, and would have been seen before if it had not been for blindness. 
By illumination we see in Scripture the beauty of the holiness of God and His works.
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). He can read them, explain them, and write books about them, but cannot see the beauty of holiness contained in them.
Nonetheless, the unbeliever’s affections can awaken by learning new and marvelous truths about God and divine things, or by the Holy Spirit’s common work of giving more natural understanding of biblical truth, such as those who “were once enlightened,” but fell away (Hebrews 6:4). “But these affections are not spiritual.”  The Holy Spirit works in all people in a common way, but gracious affections only flow from the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s heart.
To be led by the Spirit involves choosing and acting according to the sense and love of holiness as beautiful. Someone with a good ear for music can tell harmony from noise by hearing it, without analyzing the sound waves. Lovers of beauty recognize it by a glance without computations and analysis.  And, the good nature of a man will produce better behavior “than the strongest reason” of an ill-natured individual.  Similarly,
A holy person is led by the Spirit, as he is instructed and led by his holy taste and disposition of heart; whereby, in the lively exercise of grace, he easily distinguishes good and evil, and knows at once what is a suitable amiable behavior towards God and towards man…and judges what is right, as it were spontaneously and of himself, without a particular deduction, by any other arguments than the beauty that is seen, and goodness that is tasted. 
And Scripture remains central and foundational. “The children of God are led by the Spirit of God, in judging of actions themselves, and in their meditations upon, and judging of, and applying the rules of God’s holy Word: and so God ‘teaches them his statutes, and causes them to understand the way of His precepts.’” 
The leading of the Spirit, then, consists of choosing and delighting in holiness and the commands of God rather than the evil desires of the sinful flesh, from a view and love of the beauty of God’s moral excellence, by a heart enlightened and trained by the Word of God and transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Thus, the leading of the Spirit is not visions, imaginations, Scripture or other words coming to mind in an extraordinary way and accepted as God’s commands. “A very great part of false religion that has been in the world, from one age to another, consists in such discoveries as these, and in the affections that flow from them.”  “It is chiefly by such sort of religion as this that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light: and it is that which he has ever most successfully made use of to confound hopeful and happy revivals of religion, from the beginning of the Christian church to this day,”  including the Great Awakening.
Up next: True religious affections accompany a “conviction of certainty.”
 BT, 179; Yale, 253-4.
 BT, 192; Yale, 266.
 BT, 193; Yale, 267. See BT, 136 or Yale, 208-9 for a description of some of the visions people had during the Great Awakening that were improperly called divine illumination.
 BT, 202; Yale, 276.
 BT, 204; Yale, 278.
 BT, 193-4; Yale, 268.
 BT, 206; Yale, 280.
 Calvin, Institutes, 1:9:1; quoted in BT, 203, footnote; Yale, 278, footnote 2.
 BT, 205-6; Yale, 280.
 BT, 194, emphasis mine; Yale, 268.
 BT, 193; Yale, 267-8.
 BT, 197-8; Yale, 272.
 BT, 206; Yale, 280-1.
 BT, 195; Yale, 269-70.
 BT, 207; Yale, 281.
 BT, 209; Yale, 283.
 BT, 207; Yale, 282.
 BT, 211; Yale, 285.
 BT, 212; Yale, 286.
 BT, 213; Yale, 287.
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