Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In a time of revivalism, when distinguishing between the truly pious and the merely exercised was paramount, Edwards worked to identify genuine “religious affections” both as a means of making that distinction and as a means of instructing. For Edwards, “affections” (corresponding to what we would now call emotions) were positive and negative inclinations of the soul; among the former are love, desire, hope, joy, gratitude, and complacence; among the latter are hatred, fear, anger, and grief. True religion consists, for the most part, in the true religious affections.

Love is the paramount religious affection. The preeminent virtue of Jesus Christ was expressed in the exercise of the holy affections. Among circumstances that cannot be taken as signs of true grace in persons having religious affections are their making fluent and fervent religious protestations, their spending much time in worship and other religious activities, their confidence about their own piety, and their happening to be pleasing to the truly godly.

Although there is no way of being certain about the piety of persons, there are twelve signs of the true religious affections: (1) They arise from spiritual, supernatural, and divine influences; (2) they are grounded in the excellence of divine things; (3) they are founded on the appeal of the moral excellence of divine things; (4) they arise from the mind’s enlightened understanding of divine things; (5) they are...

(The entire section is 402 words.)