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The Religious Affections

Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as by action.”
– Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections

This evening I finished reading Jonathan Edwards’ book The Religious Affections. Edwards was a minister from the Puritan tradition who served in the New England area during the 18th Century. While he’s arguably (and somewhat unfortunately) most famous for his sermon “Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God“, his writing in Affections on the nature of what real faith looks like is a Christian classic. After completing it tonight I find myself joining the chorus of praise.

I’m amazed that a book well over 250 years old is as relevant today as it was when it was penned in 1746. I found myself hearing words from this New England divine that would hit the mark with contemporary issues like prosperity theology, seeker-sensitive church strategies, the “free grace” movement, etc. Not only did I think Edwards to be relevant, often he was better than anything I’d read by modern-day authors.

Frankly, one of the by-products of reading works like Edwards and others from the riches of the historical Church, is the growing awareness of how vapid and shallow most contemporary “Christian” books really are. In a world where many believers are bombarded with well-touted books which are overly sentimentalized, doctrinally weak accounts which seek to move us more emotionally than spiritually, Affections easily stands out with it’s robust theology and penetrating expositions, not to mention its archaic language, demanding use of logic and sentences that are intricately composed. And it’s all a joy. A hard joy due to my powder-puff abilities of both concentration and cognition which have been honed to a dull, blunt “edge” thanks in no small part to the ADD culture I’ve allowed myself to be too influenced by, but a joy nonetheless.

Frequently, I found myself putting Affections down simply to more deeply ponder a sentence I had read…not because I didn’t understand it…but because it so effectively and efficiently highlighted the Christ-honoring truth it was trying put before the reader. Even quotations from other Puritan pastors Edwards cites had me reading (and pondering) them over and over. I also wrote notes in the margins, something I never do. But I started this practice because I felt like I would better comprehend the flow and content of Edwards’ thought.

The truth is I didn’t want to miss anything because this book is rich stuff. I’m both grateful and hopeful in finishing it. Grateful that God’s grace brought me to reading this fine work, hopeful that Affections will find itself bubbling into my life and ministry over the years. If it does I will be more than well-served both personally and ministerially.

Now if I can just crank Dostoevsky back up… 😉

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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