“Signs of Nothing”
from part 2 of A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections
by Jonathan Edwards
Now let us look at this man who has had such a lasting influence, and who seems to be becoming again almost a dominating influence in religious thought in America. I confess freely that this is one of the most difficult tasks I have ever attempted. The theme is almost impossible, and very largely for the reason that I have already given, namely the influence of Edwards upon me. I am afraid, and I say it with much regret, that I have to put him ahead even of Daniel Rowland and George Whitefield. Indeed I am tempted, perhaps foolishly, to compare the Puritans to the Alps, Luther and Calvin to the Himalayas, and Jonathan Edwards to Mount Everest! He has always seemed to me to be the man most like the apostle Paul. Of course, Whitefield was a great and mighty preacher as was Daniel Rowland but so was Edwards. Neither of them had the mind, neither of them had the intellect, neither of them had the grasp of theology that Edwards had; neither of them was the philosopher he was. He stands out, it seems to me, quite on his own amongst men ... There are so many approaches to this great summit; but not only so, the atmosphere is so spiritually rarefied, and there is this blazing whiteness of the holiness of the man himself, and his great emphasis upon the holiness and the glory of God; and above all the weakness of the little climber as he faces this great peak pointing up to heaven. All I can hope to do is to give some glimpses of this man and his life, and what he did, with the ultimate end and object of persuading every one to buy these two volumes of his works, and to read them
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
SHOWING WHAT ARE DISTINGUISHING SIGNS OF TRULY GRACIOUS AND HOLY AFFECTIONS.
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.
What are the Practical Implications?
- Necessity for the gospel to be a part of regular church life.
- Signs/Gifts should not be elevated or sought at the expense of Holy Practices.
- Help to Christian Counseling/ Accountability.
- Promotes a healthy Fear of God (Phil 2:12)