Conscience, Body, and Soul

I was able to return this morning to my long and slow and unsteady progress through Jonathan Edwards Religious Affections (last post here). Continuing to distinguish between genuine religious affections and hypocrisy, Edwards considered the following criteria:

ColinMountain.jpg1) Genuine conversion will soften the heart of the convert, a softening which will endure through time. The hypocrite, the one displaying apparently genuine, but truly false evidence of conversion, will display this tenderness for a time, but it will not last. The hypocrite will over time continue to claim the merits of Christ as savior, but will cease to be concerned about his actual sin, his actual attitude of heart toward this savior whose merits he claims. The truly converted will over time deepen in his appreciation of the holiness of God and whereas he will not be sticken with servile fear in his presence, he will be moved by a growing reverential fear. The greatest saints, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, were all bold in their approach to God, as those who knew his fatherly affection for them, but approached him nevertheless with a reverence which showed they still saw him as God.

2) Genuine conversion will display itself proportionately, though not perfectly. The truly converted will have many faults and weaknesses. The graces in them will not be perfected in this life, but there will be a proportion among them. The hypocrite will display great fervor and passion in one area, and be monstrously inconsistent in another. The hypocrite may speak of a great love and passion for God, but have nothing but contempt for God’s people. This disproportion exposes the falseness of the source.

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I have mentioned before that the sensitive conscience can too easily be convinced of its hypocrisy, whereas that very sensitivity of conscience is itself evidence of the ongoing tenderness revealing genuine conversion. While remaining satisfied of our true conversion, it is good to allow Edwards’ precision scalpel to expose real weakness and sin in our own lives.

Intriguing then was Edwards’ reflection in this area on how we can and do strangely bisect people. So, I leave you with this:

“Some men shew a love to others as to their outward man, they are liberal of their worldly substance, and often give to the poor; but have no love to to, or concern for the souls of men. Others pretend a great love to men’s souls, that are not compassionate and charitable towards their bodies. The making a great shew of love, pity, and distress for souls, costs ’em nothing; but in order to shew mercy to men;’s bodies, they must part with money out of their pockets. But a true Christian love to our brethren, extends both to their souls and bodies. And herein is like the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. He shewed mercy to men’s souls, by laboring for them in preaching the gospel to ’em; and shewed mercy to their bodies, in going about doing good, healing all manner of sickness and diseases among the people.” (Religious Affections, page 369)