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The Religious Affections (Edwards)

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Jonathan Edwards was one of the few truly great theologians of the English-speaking world, an intellectual and spiritual giant. When he began his ministry at Northampton, Massachusetts, New England had drifted from the Puritanism of its founders. Resisting the current trend, Edwards preached the whole counsel of God, and God plainly honoured his testimony. Yet to all appearances his life ended in tragedy; voted out of his pastorate by the people of Northampton, he died of fever at Princeton, only two months after taking over as President of the College. Edwards is perhaps best known as the theologian of revival, a subject on which he was uniquely qualified to write, by reason of his theological grasp and a first-hand experience of awakenings. Of his several treatises in this field, The Religious Affections ranks as the ‘magnum opus’.

The author’s object in this book is to distinguish between true and false religion by showing the marks of a saving work of the Holy Spirit in men. In his Preface, Edwards stresses the importance of using ‘our utmost endeavours clearly to discern…wherein true religion does consist’. For ’till this be done, it may be expected that great revivings of religion will be but of short continuance’.

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Table of Contents:

Introduction by Alexander Smellie

Part 1: Concerning the Nature of the Affections and Their Importance in Religion

Section I: True Religion largely consists in Holy Affections

Section II: Evidence that True Religion lies much in the Affections

Section III: Inferences from the Doctrine

Part 2: Showing What are no Certain Signs that Religious Affections are Truly Gracious or that They are not

Section I: That Religious Affections are very great is no Sign

Section II: Great effects on the Body are no Sign

Section III: Fluency and Fervor are no Sign

Section IV: That they are not excited by us is no Sign

Section V: That they come with Texts of Scripture is no Sign

Section VI: That there is an appearance of Love is no Sign

Section VII: That Religious Affections are of many kinds is no Sign

Section VIII: Joys following in a certain Order are no Sign

Section IX: Much Time and much Zeal in Duty are no Sign

Section X: Much Expression of Praise is no Sign

Section XI: Great Confidence is no certain Sign

Section XII: Moving Testimonies are no Sign

Part 3: Showing What are Distinguishing Signs of Truly Gracious and Holy Affections

Section I: Gracious Affections are from Divine Influence

Section II: Their Object is the Excellence of Divine Things

Section III: They are founded on the moral Excellency of Objects

Section IV: They arise from Divine Illumination

Section V: They are attended with a Conviction of Certainty

Section VI: They are attended with Evangelical Humiliation

Section VII: They are attended with a Change of Nature

Section VIII: They beget and promote the Temper of Jesus

Section IX: Gracious Affections soften the Heart

Section X: They have beautiful Symmetry and Proportion

Section XI: False Affections rest satisfied in Themselves

Section XII: Religious Affections have their fruit in Christian Practice


Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) served the Northampton Congregational Church in Massachusetts for twenty-three years, then missionary outpost to the Mohawk and Mohican tribes. In 1758, he became president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Edwards "is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian," and one of America's greatest intellectuals.