This volume contains Edwards’ most mature and persistent attempt to judge the validity of the religious development in eighteenth-century America known as the Great Awakening. In developing criteria for such judgment he attacked at the same time one of the fundamental questions facing all religion: how to distinguish genuine from spurious piety? The Awakening created much bitter controversy; on the one side stood the emotionalists and enthusiasts, and on the other the rationalists, for whom religion was essentially a matter of morality or good conduct and the acceptance of properly formulated doctrine. Edwards, with great analytical skill and enormous biblical learning, showed that both sides were in the wrong. He attacked both a “lifeless morality” as too pale as to be the essence of religion, and he rejected the excesses of a purely emotional religion more concerned for sensational effects than for the inner transformation of the self, which was, for him, the center of genuine Christianity.
“Doct. True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” (Page 95)
“I. Affections that are truly spiritual and gracious, do arise from those influences and operations on the heart, which are spiritual, supernatural and divine.” (Page 197)
“II. The first objective ground of gracious affections, is the transcendently excellent and amiable nature of divine things, as they are in themselves; and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or self-interest.” (Page 240)
“VIII. Truly gracious affections differ from those affections that are false and delusive, in that they tend to, and are attended with the lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper of Jesus Christ; or in other words, they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness and mercy, as appeared in Christ.” (Pages 344–345)
“Such trials are of threefold benefit to true religion: hereby the truth of it is manifested, and it appears to be indeed true religion: they, above all other things, have a tendency to distinguish between true religion and false, and to cause the difference between them evidently to appear.” (Page 93)
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