(1703-1758) was a Congregational minister of New England (now USA), a friend
of such men as George Whitefield and Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine. The writings he
left to posterity show something of the enormous spiritual stature of this
scholar and preacher of the Gospel.
is no question whatsoever, that is of greater
importance to mankind, and what is more concerns every individual person to be
well resolved in, than this: What are the distinguishing qualifications of
those that are in favour 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? But though it be of such
importance, and though we have clear and abundant light in the word of God to
direct us in this matter, yet there is no one point, wherein professing
Christians do more differ one from another. It would be endless to reckon up
the variety of opinions in this point, that divide the Christian world; making
manifest the truth of that declaration of our Saviour, "Strait is the
gate and narrow is the way, that leads to life, and few there be that find
The consideration of these things has long engaged
me to attend to this matter, with the utmost diligence and care, and exactness
of search and inquiry, that I have been capable of. It is a subject on which
my mind has been peculiarly intent, ever since I first entered on the study of
divinity. But as to the success of my inquiries it must be left to the
judgment of the reader of the following treatise.
-- from the Author's Introduction
I. CONCERNING THE NATURE OF THE AFFECTIONS AND
THEIR IMPORTANCE IN RELIGION.
What the affections of the mind are
Evidence that true religion in great part consists in the affections
II. SHOWING WHAT ARE NO CERTAIN SIGNS THAT
RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS ARE GRACIOUS, OR THAT THEY ARE NOT.
That religious affections are very great, or raised very high, is no sign
That they have great effects on the body, is no sign
That they cause those who have them to be fluent, fervent, and abundant, in
talking of the things of religion, is no sign
That persons did not excite them of their own contrivance and by their own
strength, is no sign
That they come with texts of Scripture, remarkably brought to the mind, is no
That there is an appearance of love in them, is no sign
Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one another,
is no sign
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
That they much dispose persons with their mouths to praise and glorify God, is
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
That the outward manifestations of them, and the relation persons give of
them, are very affecting and pleasing to the godly, is no sign
III. SHOWING WHAT ARE DISTINGUISHING SIGNS OF
TRULY GRACIOUS AND HOLY AFFECTIONS.
Truly gracious affections arise from divine influences and operations on the
Their ground is the excellent nature of divine things, not self-interest
They are founded on the loveliness of the moral excellency of divine things.
They arise from the mind's being enlightened to understand or apprehend divine
They are attended with a conviction of the reality and certainty of divine
They are attended with evangelical humiliation.
attended with a change of nature.
They are attended with the lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper of Jesus
They are attended with a Christian tenderness of spirit.
They have beautiful symmetry and proportion.
The higher they are raised, the more is a longing of soul after spiritual
They have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice
Christian practice and holy life is a sign of sincerity to others
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