Friday, July 18, 2008

Reading Classics RAL - Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

Yesterday we began with the Reading Classics Together RAL (Read-along), the book chosen for this round is Jonathan Edward's Treatise on The Religious Affections. The assigned reading for yesterday was the preface of the book. I found the preface to be very meaty actually. Edwards really emphasizes on discerning true religion from false religion and explains in details the way Satan causes strife among the Church and the consequences of the lack of discernment. I couldn't agree more with Edwards, and more so because of what I've seen and read about the things happening during these times in the Church.
Edwards says that the greatest danger is having a mixture of false religion and true religion because we are deceived into thinking that what we are doing, what we offer God, is pleasing to Him when in fact it is abominable and people as well are deceived into thinking they are saved when truly they are not. So basically it all boils down to that, discernment. I have been discussing the very same thing with one of the doctors at the hospital I'm currently at, who has recently been revived by God's word after such a long period of starvation partly because of the church he attends.

All in all, it was a great read, I absolutely loved it. Its not an easy read, at least not for me, because it is written in English from those times, if you know what I mean. So I did have to re-read the preface but to my delight.
Here is my little outline of what I got from the preface:

In the first paragraph Edwards poses three questions(well two of those questions are basically the same only posed differently):
1. “What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards? Or, which comes to the same thing,
2. What is the nature of true religion?
3. And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God?”

Then he basically explains why these questions need to be answered. The importance of knowing the difference b/n True Religion and False Religion. As someone explained, since there were great “revivals” going on back in the day it is important to discern if such revivals were an act of God, or if they were Satan’s way of causing division among the brethren. Because amidst these revivals much false religion prevailed and multitudes of hypocrites sprung up among true saints.

He describes the way Satan has caused strife, damage and division in the Church:
By the mixture of Counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished is that the devil has:
- Prevailed against all revivings of religion.
- Hurt the cause of Christianity (even more than by all the persecutions of both Jews and Heathens)
- Prevailed against New England, to quench the love and spoil the joy of her spousals.
And says that it will continue to be that way in the Church until we learn to discern between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences. He says than when these revivals occur and we don’t distinguish between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences:
The devil is gratified by making us think that the way these revivals occur, that what we are doing is pleasing and acceptable to God when in fact it is abominable to Him. And so it is that the devil deceives many about the state of their souls, making them think they’re saved when they are not.
And finally describes the consequence of said lack of discernment, the devil:
- Damps and wounds religion in the hearts of the saints, obscures and deforms it.
- Causes their religious affections woefully to degenerate, and to be like the manna that bred worms and stank; and dreadfully ensnares and confounds the minds of others of the saints and brings them into great difficulties and temptation,
- He encourages the hearts of open enemies of religion, and strengthens their hands, and fills them with weapons, and makes strong their fortresses; when, at the same time, religion and the church of God lie exposed to them, as a city without walls.
- he brings it to pass, that men work wickedness under a notion of doing God service, and so sin without restraint.
- he brings in even the friends of religion, insensibly to themselves, to do the work of enemies, by destroying religion in a far more effectual manner than open enemies can do, under a notion of advancing it.
The worst consequence of it all is that the devil manages to scatter the flock of Christ, and sets them one against another, and in this way religion, “by degrees degenerates into vain jangling; and during the strife, Satan leads both parties far out of the right way, driving each to great extremes, according as he finds they are most inclined, or most easily moved and swayed, till the right path in the middle is almost wholly neglected.”
If there would be a keyword to describe the introduction, the keyword would be discernment, as someone else mentioned in one of their post I believe. The importance of discernment would be the theme. At least that’s what I understood from what I read and re-read in the introduction.

1 comment:

Penn Tomassetti said...

"...and people as well are deceived into thinking they are saved when truly they are not."

This is the grief of my heart every day. Wouldn't it be nice if someone translated Religious Affections into contemporary speech? Edwards was an unusual man, but very gifted by God's grace. One of the sermons I reread often of his is "Sinners in the hands of an angry God."

Good summary of the introduction.