Edward's Big Questions
What are the distinguishing qualifications of those who 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? (1)
Literature (at least the bulk medical research literature) is filled with excellent studies and trials that are well designed, well carried out, analyzed to statistical perfection but have failed to ask a clinically relevant question - a question that means something in real life, to real people. So when I picked up Religious Affections and was greeted on page one by Edward's questions I was genuinely excited about what answers he may have because these questions are acutely relevant to anyone who professes Christ.
He begins from a scripture written to Christians under persecution or trial
1Pe 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
- trials above all things have a tendency to distinguish between true religion and false(6)
- trials make the genuine beauty and amiableness [of true religion] remarkably to appear. True virtue never appears so lovely as when it is most oppressed(7)
- trials purify and increase true religion(7)
The manner of true religion is manifest in trials by the following responses:
- Love to Christ - a supernatural principle of love to something unseen; they loved Jesus Christ, for they saw him spiritually whom the world saw not
- Joy in Christ - their inward spiritual joys were greater than their outward sufferings
Further notes on the nature of that joy
- it arises from faith
- it is different from worldly joy and "unspeakable" in that it is more vastly pure, sublime, and heavenly nature, being something supernatural and truly divine, and so ineffably excellent; the sublimity and exquisite sweetness of which, there were no words to set forth
- it was full of glory - it was a preliberation of the joy of heaven, that raised their minds to a degree of heavenly blessedness
From all of this Edward's proposes that "True religion, in great part, consists of holy affections."
What a challenge when you are facing adversity to put your attitudes and behaviors up a against the standard of scripture! Lord have mercy on me and allow your joy to pervade my mind and spirit as I face persecution however great or small.
I am anticipating some God ordained personal challenges as I read this book but it is exciting none-the-less.