by Jonathan Edwards
The 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 our lives. In his preface,
THERE is no question whatsoever, that is of greater importance to mankind, and what is more concerns every individual person to be well resolved in, than this: 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, What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God? But though it be of such importance, and though we have clear and abundant light in the word of God to direct us in this matter, yet there is no one point, wherein professing Christians do more differ one from another. It would be endless to reckon up the variety of opinions in this point, that divide the Christian world; making manifest the truth of that declaration of our Savior, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, that leads to life, and few there be that find it."
It greatly concerns us to use our utmost endeavors clearly to discern, and have it well settled and established, wherein true religion does consist. Till this be done, it may be expected, that great revivings of religion will be but of short continuance; till this be done, there is but little good to be expected of all our warm debates in conversation and from the press, not knowing clearly and distinctly what we ought to contend for.
My design is to contribute my mite, and use my best (however feeble) endeavors to this end, in the ensuing treatise; wherein it must be noted, that my design is somewhat diverse from the design of what I have formerly published, which was to show the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God, including both his common and saving operations; but what I aim at now, is to show the nature and signs of the gracious operations of God's Spirit, by which they are to be distinguished from all things whatsoever, that the minds of men are the subjects of, which are not of a saving nature. If I have succeeded, in this my aim, in any tolerable measure, I hope it will tend to promote the interest of religion. And whether I have succeeded to bring any light to this subject or no, and however my attempts may be reproached in these captious and censorious times, I hope ins the mercy of a gracious God, for the acceptance of the sincerity of my endeavors; and hope also for the candor and prayers of the true followers of the meek and charitable Lamb of God.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I. CONCERNING THE NATURE OF THE AFFECTIONS AND THEIR IMPORTANCE IN RELIGION.
I. What the affections of the mind are
II. Evidence that true religion in great part consists in the affections
PART II. SHOWING WHAT ARE NO CERTAIN SIGNS THAT RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS ARE GRACIOUS, OR THAT THEY ARE NOT.
I. That religious affections are very great, or raised very high, is no sign
II. That they have great effects on the body, is no sign
III. That they cause those who have them to be fluent, fervent, and abundant, in talking of the things of religion, is no sign
IV. That persons did not excite them of their own contrivance and by their own strength, is no sign
V. That they come with texts of Scripture, remarkably brought to the mind, is no sign
VI. That there is an appearance of love in them, is no sign
VII. Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one another, is no sign
VIII. That comforts and joys seem to follow awakenings and convictions of conscience, in a certain order, is no sign
IX. That they dispose persons to spend much time in religion, and to be zealously engaged in the external duties of worship, is no sign
X. That they much dispose persons with their mouths to praise and glorify God, is no sign
XI. That they make persons that have them exceeding confident that what they experience is divine, and that they are in a good estate, is no sign
XII. That the outward manifestations of them, and the relation persons give of them, are very affecting and pleasing to the godly, is no sign
PART III. SHOWING WHAT ARE DISTINGUISHING SIGNS OF TRULY GRACIOUS AND HOLY AFFECTIONS.
I. Truly gracious affections arise from divine influences and operations on the heart
II. Their ground is the excellent nature of divine things, not self-interest
III. They are founded on the loveliness of the moral excellency of divine things.
IV. They arise from the mind's being enlightened to understand or apprehend divine things.
V. They are attended with a conviction of the reality and certainty of divine things.
VI. They are attended with evangelical humiliation.
VII. They are attended with a change of nature.
VIII. They are attended with the lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper of Jesus Christ
IX. They are attended with a Christian tenderness of spirit.
X. They have beautiful symmetry and proportion.
XI. The higher they are raised, the more is a longing of soul after spiritual attainments increased.
XII. They have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice
1. Christian practice and holy life is a sign of sincerity to others
2. Christian practice is the chief evidence to ourselves, much to be preferred to the method of the first convictions, enlightenings, comforts, or any immanent discoveries or exercises of grace whatsoever