Many years ago, in a wild and woolly period known as the First Great Awakening, colonial pastor Jonathan Edwards took on the tricky task of sorting out what place the "religious affections," as he called them, have in the Christian life. Here's what he said as a foundational tenet:
There are false affections, and there are true. A man's having much affection, don't prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no affection, it proves that he has no true religion. (Works of Jonathan Edwards 2:121)
Edwards wrote these words to help people process the revivals of the 1730s–40s, a series of spiritual awakenings when many people claimed their hearts had been profoundly stirred by God. Edwards' beloved wife, Sarah, had herself fallen into a sort of rapture, feeling herself remarkably close to the Lord. Some "Old Lights" cried down these emotive expressions of faith, charging that they were nothing more than attention-seeking excesses. True spirituality was not expressive and swept up but modest and buttoned-down. This discussion on "spiritual ecstasies" became a referendum on the revival itself.
Continue reading The Religious Affections.