Archive for ‘Conversion’

November 28, 2015

Religious Affections (Classics of Faith & Devotion)

Religious Affections CoverStatus: Available

Book Description

[This abridged edition was part of the Multnomah Press series Classics of Faith & Devotion, with an Introduction by Charles Colson and “Editor’s Note about Jonathan Edwards and the Relevance of This Book” by James M. Houston]

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’.

Source: Banner of Truth

Table of Contents

Preface to the Classics
Editor’s Note about Jonathan Edwards and the Relevance of This Classic
Introduction by Charles W. Colson

Part I: The Nature and Importance of the Affections

Chapter One
THE AFFECTIONS AS EVIDENCE OF TRUE RELIGION—Religious affections are strong and vigorous actions of the will and heart. They motivate the soul either to cleave to and seek or turn away and oppose. Scripture reflects their significance in true religion. Without holy affections, it is impossible to have true faith.

Part II: How the Religious Affections May Be Falsely Appraised

Chapter Two
FALSE SIGNS OF TRUE RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS—The Pharisees talked much about their religion. Satan, like the Holy Spirit, is able to bring Scripture to mind; he is a master counterfeiter. We need to guard against judging the affections by such false evidences as these.

Part III: The Distinguishing Signs of Truly Gracious and Holy Affections

Chapter Three
HOW TRULY GRACIOUS AFFECTIONS ARE KNOWN—True spiritual affections are divinely given. Only the Holy Spirit can make us spiritual by adopting us and giving us the nature of Christ in His Sonship.

Chapter Four
THE OBJECT AND FOUNDATION OF GRACIOUS AFFECTIONS—The basis of affections is the excellence and nature of divine things. True affections cannot begin with self-love. They begin with delighting in the beauty and holiness of God Himself.

Chapter Five
THE FORMATION OF GRACIOUS AFFECTIONS—Gracious affections are developed from a spiritually enlightened mind. This spiritual light reveals the glory of divine things.

Chapter Six
CERTAINTY AND HUMILITY IN GRACIOUS AFFECTIONS—A true Christian has a conviction of the truth of the gospel and this conviction causes him to see his sinfulness and his need of God to change him.

Chapter Seven
GRACIOUS AFFECTIONS CHANGE US TO BE MORE CHRIST-LIKE—If a person’s conversion is real, it will bring about deep and abiding changes throughout his life. He will be more holy, gentle, and forgiving. He will become more and more like Christ.

Chapter Eight
GRACIOUS AFFECTIONS ARE BALANCED, YET DYNAMIC IN GROWTH—The balance of the affections in true saints is a reflection of the balance of the affections in the image of Christ. The affections are dynamic in their growth. As the saint longs and thirsts after God, his spiritual appetite enlarges and he longs for more of God.

Chapter Nine
GRACIOUS AFFECTIONS ARE INTENSELY PRACTICAL—It is our practice of Christianity that makes our profession of it credible. True affections motivate the Christian to be diligent and earnest in living out his beliefs.

Chapter Ten
THE AFFECTIONS ARE THE CHIEF EVIDENCE OF A SAVING SINCERITY IN TRUE RELIGION—Christian practice is the most preferred evidence of salvation. This practice proves godliness and repentance and gives evidence of God’s presence.

Appendix

A Guide to Devotional Reading

Indexes

Scripture Index

Subject Index

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

About the Author

Jonathan Edwards was born a little over seventy years after the first Puritan settlement of New England and, at the time of his birth, October 5, 1703, there were some 130 towns in the colony. Some were well established, others were small and on the frontiers of the wilderness. He spent his first twelve years in his parents’ home at East Windsor, close to the Connecticut river. His father, Timothy Edwards, was pastor of the local church, a good student and preacher, as well as a part-time school teacher and farmer. His mother, Esther, had eleven children—four girls, then Jonathan, to be followed by six more girls, and all of them six feet in height. Of the larger family circle, his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, was pastor of the largest church in New England, some thirty-five miles away at Northampton.

Jonathan Edwards would appear to have had a healthy and happy childhood, spent largely in female company. When he was not quite thirteen he was sent down river to the Collegiate School of Connecticut. Two years later the School settled at New Haven and became Yale College. The Head was one of Edwards’ many cousins, Elisha Williams. Edwards graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1720, and it was decided he would stay a further two years to become a Master of Arts. One year later, however, in the spring of 1721, something far more important happened.

Edwards at this time was already religious but despite ‘repeated resolutions’ it was not a religion that had changed his heart or humbled his natural pride. But now, he says, ‘I was brought to that new sense of things’, to an ‘inward, sweet delight in God and divine things . . . quite different from any thing I ever experienced before.’ ‘I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him.’

It was now that Edwards’ concern to see Christ’s kingdom extended was born. Before concluding his M.A. studies he went to serve First Presbyterian Church in New York at the age of nineteen. This was a joyful time for him and sermons he preached in New York show him to be remarkably mature. But there were those, including his father, who wanted him back in Connecticut and from 1724 to 1726 he joined the staff at Yale as a tutor. These were years of preparation and 1726 brought the great milestone of his life, for that year saw him invited to join his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, now aged eighty-three, and still the minister at Northampton.

Meanwhile something even more significant had happened. As a teenager, Edwards had fallen in love with a girl who lived with her mother close to the College Green in New Haven. She was Sarah Pierrepont, and, on July 28, 1727, seventeen years old and dressed in pea-green satin brocade, she married Jonathan and became his inseparable helper.

Northampton, a town of some 200 homes, mostly clustered together for defence, had a population of about a thousand men, women and children. The couple set up home on a rural lane (later King Street), and were given ten acres and a further forty, five miles away. A year later the first of their children was born, and in the next twenty-two years the family grew until there were eight daughters and three sons.

The first seven years at Northampton were ones of hard work and happiness as Edwards settled into the habits of a lifetime. One concern, however, was to deepen as he grew to understand his congregation. His people made up the only church in the town and—according to the early New England pattern—the whole population regarded it as their own. When Stoddard died in 1729 the oversight fell entirely on Edwards.

The Northampton church was as eminent as any in the land but it seems that it had come to rely too much on what it had been. Its spiritual condition did not come up to Edwards’ expectation and his sermons increasingly revealed that he saw too many of his hearers as no more than nominal believers: ‘They come to meeting from one Sabbath to another and hear God’s word, but all that can be said to ’em won’t awaken ’em, won’t persuade ’em to take pains they may be saved.’ Often, he feared, such people were not even listening, ‘They are gazing about the assembly minding this and the other person that is in it, or they are thinking of their worldly business.’

This state of affairs came to an end in one of the best-known events of Edwards’ life, the revival of 1734–5, when, in his words, ‘A great and earnest concern about the great things of religion, and the eternal world, became universal in all parts of the town.’ He thought it probable that 300 had been converted within six months, and it was his hope that ‘the greater part of persons in this town, above sixteen years of age, are such as have the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.’ These were months when the crowded meetinghouse was filled with praise.

Edwards wrote an account of the awakening which was published under the title, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God. The book drew widespread attention and instantly put Edwards and the Northampton church on the world stage. This appears to have been the occasion of a family quarrel that was to go on through the rest of Edwards’ lifetime, particularly involving cousins on his mother’s side, the Williamses. The revival did not continue. It is clear that by 1736 Edwards was again struggling with the difficulties of more normal church life, and there was cause for some disappointment as his anticipations of the permanent results of the revival were not all fulfilled. Party strife, long endemic in the village, reappeared.

In 1740, however, a work of grace, much wider in scale than in 1734–5, began along the eastern seaboard. It was the beginning of ‘the Great Awakening’, which would touch several places in the thirteen colonies of the fledgling nation. For Edwards, the Great Awakening years were exhausting times which brought him ‘to the brink of the grave’. Besides the care of his own people, he was now itinerating widely to preach for other men. Correspondence multiplied, and yet somehow he was also preparing two of the most significant books ever written on the subject of revival, Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, and Thoughts on the Revival in New England. Yet these were happy years, indeed, at one point, there was fear lest his wife Sarah would die of sheer joy!

The blessing of the early 1740s was followed by a longer period of difficulty when two major problems confronted Edwards almost simultaneously. First, in the wider scene in New England, opposition developed to the very idea of the Awakening as a ‘work of the Spirit of God’. Some, by foolish behaviour and lives lacking in Christlikeness gave just cause for criticism. Some of these people were fanatics, people who saw physical phenomena as sure proof of the Spirit’s work and presence. The ‘wild fire’ they represented gave support to the arguments of those who wished to discredit the whole work. In addition to this, in every revival there is a work of the Spirit on large numbers of individuals who express spiritual concern and their lives take on a new seriousness but it does not last, and in time there is a return to their former indifference and formal religion. With pain, Edwards had to recognize that in Northampton itself the number of true converts was not what he had once hoped.

The other great difficulty which Edwards now experienced was that support from his own congregation was weakening and one cause of this was the hostility of certain members of his wider family circle. During the 1740s Edwards had come to disagree with his grandfather Stoddard’s long-established practice of not requiring a profession of saving faith in Christ in order to be a communicant; communicants, Edwards came to see, ought to be believers. But Stoddard’s name was already a legend, and when his grandson’s disagreement with the great man became known there was uproar in the town, with the Williams family involved as usual. The final extraordinary outcome was his being voted out of his church. The great majority of the 230 male communicants voted for his removal. The tragedy deepens when Edwards writes that ‘most of them esteemed me to be the chief instrument in the hand of God of the eternal salvation of their souls’.

Thus one of the most fruitful pastorates in history ended on June 22, 1750. Edwards was now forty-six. No financial arrangement was offered to help them and for the best part of a year, apart from some temporary engagements, he remained unemployed. Then he accepted a call to an improbable situation. Stockbridge was a village in the frontier wilderness, forty miles from Northampton, and with a congregation of only about a dozen white families. One factor that added to the appeal of Stockbridge was the presence of Indians and the existence of a school for Indian children. So, after difficulties in selling their Northampton home, the whole family was eventually settled on the frontier by October 1751.

For Edwards Stockbridge was a haven of peace compared with the turmoil he had left behind. But it was not long before the family of Williamses at Stockbridge were showing all the prejudice and hostility that had marked the other members of the same clan. The Stockbridge Williamses had their own ambitious plans, in which material gain seems to have played no small part, and they wished for no oversight from anyone of Edwards’ stature. For three years there was to be another painful struggle, but this time the congregation stood with their pastor, and so did the Indians, whom the Williamses had antagonized. Only in 1754 did the Williamses in Stockbridge give up, and the strife was over.

Yet there were other trials, including persistent financial constraints, and, then, with the outbreak of war with the French, the whole frontier situation became exposed to attack. One of Edwards’ daughters, Esther, visited her parents and family at Stockbridge in the summer of 1756 and was filled with alarm at the danger of their situation.

The next year Esther’s husband, Aaron Burr, President of Nassau Hall, the College of New Jersey recently established at Princeton, died and Edwards was surprised to learn that the decision of the College trustees was that he should be his son-in-law’s successor. He did not wish to accept, and when the approaches to him continued, Edwards referred the decision to a council of friends. They concluded he should go to Princeton, the only time in his life that we read he shed tears. One major reason for his reluctance was that he now believed that he could be more useful by writing than by speaking and he had a number of potential books in hand. Given the urgency of the need at Princeton, Edwards left Sarah and most of his family behind at Stockbridge when he left in January 1758.

As he left the home for the last time, his daughter remembered, ‘When he had got out of doors he turned about,—“I commit you to God”, said he.’ Edwards was now fifty-four and he spoke of his health being stronger than previously, but the next month an inoculation against smallpox went wrong, and on March 22, 1758, he died at Princeton. Sixteen days after her father, Esther also died at Princeton, leaving two orphaned children. Sarah hurried down from Stockbridge to care for them, only to die herself and be buried with her husband at Princeton in October 1758.

[See Iain H. Murray’s ‘Jonathan Edwards: The Man and the Legacy’ in Heroes (Banner of Truth, 2009); and his Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Banner of Truth, 1987). There is also a series of 7 articles by Kenneth D. Macleod on the life of Edwards on the Trust’s website – http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?1080 (the remaining articles in the series can be referenced from here). Sereno E Dwight’s ‘Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards’ appears in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1, edited by Edward Hickman (Banner of Truth Trust reprint, 1974).]

Source: Banner of Truth

James M Houston

Dr. James M. Houston (1922-)

About the Editor

Dr. James M. Houston was born to missionary parents who served in Spain. Dr. Houston served as University Lecturer at Oxford University, England, from 1949-1971. He was a Fellow of Hertford College during the period between 1964-1971, and held the office of Principal of Regent College from 1969-1978. From 1978 to the present, he has served as Chancellor of Regent College. He is also Professor of Spiritual Theology for the College.

Dr. Houston has been active in the establishment and encouragement of lay training centers across the continents. These include the C. S. Lewis Institute in Washington, D.C., and The London Institute for the Study of Contemporary Christianity. In addition to his work with the Classics series, he has published abook entitled, I Believe in the Creator (Eerdmans, 1978).

Hardcover, 226 pages

Publisher: Multnomah Press

Publication Date(s): 1984

ISBN: 0-88070-064-5

Library patrons who have read this book are invited to share their comments, reviews, questions or criticisms for discussion in the comments below this post.

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June 29, 2015

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert CoverStatus: Available

Publisher’s Description

Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the “lost,” if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers…. Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed.
– Rosaria

Rosaria, by the standards of many, was living a very good life. She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department’s curriculum.

Then, in her late 30s, Rosaria encountered something that turned her world upside down—the idea that Christianity, a religion she had regarded as problematic and sometimes downright damaging, might be right about who God was. That idea seemed to fly in the face of the people and causes that she most loved. What follows is a story of what she describes as a train wreck at the hand of the supernatural. These are her secret thoughts about those events, written as only a reflective English professor could.

Includes a Foreword by Kenneth G. Smith

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

About the Author

Rosaria and her husband, Kent, live in North Carolina with three of their four children, where Kent serves as a pastor in a Reformed Presbyterian church.

Book Details

154 Pages
Publisher: Crown and Covenant Publications
Publication Date: 2012

Source: WTS Books

Library patrons who have read this book are invited to share their comments, reviews, questions or criticisms for discussion in the comments below this post.