Godly Affections

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
~ Hebrews 11:27

What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?
~ Song of Solomon 5:9

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
~ Romans 14:17

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
~ Philippians 4:4

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
~ Habakkuk 3:17-18

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
~ John 16:22

Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:22

Concerning the Nature of the Affections and Their Importance in Religion, by Jonathan Edwards. The following contains an excerpt from his Part One of work, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections in Three Parts.

Religious Affections

Part I. Concerning the Nature of the Affections and Their Importance in Religion.

Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you do not see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
— 1 Peter 1:8

DOCTRINE. True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.

We see that the apostle observed and remarked about the operations and exercises of religion in the Christians to whom he wrote; and their religion appeared to be true and of the right kind when it had its greatest trial (of whatever sort it was). It was being tried by persecution, just as gold is tried in the fire. When their religion was not only proved true, but was most pure, and cleansed from its dross and mixtures of what was not true, and when religion most appeared in them in its genuine excellence and native beauty, it was “found unto praise, honor, and glory.” In making these observations and remarks, he singles out the religious affections of love and joy that were being exercised in them. These are the exercises of religion he takes notice of, the ones in which their religion appeared true and pure, and in its proper glory.

Here, I would (1) show what is meant by the affections; and (2) observe some things which make it evident that a great part of true religion lies in the affections.

1. The Affections of the Mind

It might be asked, what are the affections of the mind? I answer that the affections are none other than the more vigorous and tangible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.

God has endued the soul with two faculties: one enables perception and speculation, by which the soul discerns, views, and judges things; we call this the “understanding”. The other faculty in some way inclines the soul towards or away from the things it views or considers. This is the faculty by which the soul does not behold things as an indifferent and unaffected spectator; rather, it causes the soul to like or dislike them; to be pleased or displeased by them; to approve or reject what it views and considers. This faculty is called by various names; it is sometimes called the inclination: as it affects the actions that are determined and governed by it, it is called the will; and the mind, with regard to the exercises of this faculty, is often called the heart.

The exercise of this faculty has two sorts: either those by which the soul is carried out towards the things that are in view, in approving them, being pleased with them, and inclined towards them; or else those in which the soul opposes the things that are in view, in disapproving them, and being displeased with them, averse to them, and rejecting them.

Just as the exercises of the inclination and the will of the soul are varied in their kinds, so they are much more varied in their degrees. There are some exercises of pleasure or displeasure, inclination or disinclination, in which the soul is carried only a little past a state of indifference. There are other degrees above this, in which the approbation or dislike, pleasure or aversion, are stronger, in which we may rise higher and higher, until the soul comes to act vigorously and sensibly. At this point, the actions of the soul have such strength that (through the laws of the union which the Creator has fixed between soul and body) the motion of the blood and animal spirits2 begins to be sensibly altered. From this often arises some bodily sensation, especially about the heart and vitals, that are the fountain of the fluids3 of the body. From this it comes to pass that the mind, with regard to the exercises of this faculty, perhaps in all nations and ages, is called the heart. And the more vigorous and tangible exercises of this faculty are called the affections.

The will, and the affections of the soul, are not two faculties; the affections are not essentially distinct from the will; nor do they differ from the mere actings of the will and the inclination of the soul; but they are only differ in the liveliness and tangibleness of their exercise.

It must be confessed, that language is somewhat imperfect here, and the meanings of words in a considerable measure are loose and unfixed; they are not precisely limited by custom (which governs the use of language). In some sense, the affection of the soul does not differ at all from the will and inclination. And in any exercise of the will, it is never further exercised than it is affected; it is not moved out of a state of perfect indifference in any way other than as it is affected one way or other. Yet there are many actings of the will and inclination that are not commonly called affections. In everything we do voluntarily, there is an exercise of the will and inclination. It is our inclination that governs us in our actions; but all the actings of the inclination and will, in all our common actions of life, are not ordinarily called affections. Yet, what we call affections are not essentially different from the will and inclination, except in the degree and manner of their exercise. In every act of the will, the soul either likes or dislikes what is in view; it is either inclined or disinclined towards it.

These are not essentially different from the affections of love and hatred. Liking (or the inclination of the soul towards a thing), if it is to a high degree, and it is vigorous and lively, is
2 Outgoing and boisterous enthusiasm from a vital force once supposed to be dispatched by the brain to all points of the body.

3 A belief that physical and mental health are governed by the relative balance and temperature of four “humors” or fluids that flow through the human body: blood, choler (yellow bile), melancholy (black bile) and phlegm. – WHG

the very same thing as the affection of love. Disliking (or the disinclination towards a thing), if to a greater degree, is the very same thing as hatred. In every act of the will for or towards something that is not present, the soul is in some degree inclined towards that thing. And that inclination, if it is to a considerable degree, is the same as the affection of desire. In every degree of the act of the will, in which the soul approves of something present, there is a degree of being pleased; and that pleasure, if it is in a considerable degree, is the very same as the affection of joy or delight. If the will disapproves of what is present, the soul to some degree is displeased; and if that displeasure is great, it is the same as the affection of grief or sorrow.

Such seems to be our nature, and such are the laws of the union of soul and body, that there is never any lively and vigorous exercise of the will, or inclination of the soul, without producing some effect upon the body, some alteration of the motion of its fluids, and especially of the animal spirits. On the other hand, from the same laws of the union of the soul and body, the constitution of the body and the motion of its fluids may promote the exercise of the affections. Yet it is not the body but the mind alone that is the proper seat of the affections. The body of man is no more capable of being the actual source of love or hatred, joy or sorrow, fear or hope, than the body of a tree; nor is that same body capable of thinking and understanding. Just as it is the soul alone that has ideas, so it is the soul alone that is pleased or displeased with its ideas. Just as the soul alone thinks, so the soul alone loves or hates, rejoices or is grieved, by what it thinks of. Nor are these motions of the animal spirits and fluids of the body anything which properly belong to the nature of the affections, though they always accompany them in the present state. They are only the effects or concomitants of the affections that are entirely distinct from the affections themselves; they are in no way essential to them. Thus an unembodied spirit may be just as capable of love and hatred, joy or sorrow, hope or fear, or other affections, as one that is united to a body.

The affections and passions are frequently spoken of as being the same. Yet in the more common use of speech, there is a difference in some respect. “Affection” ordinarily means something more extensive than passion. It is used for all vigorous lively actings of the will or inclination. But passion is used for those that are more sudden, and whose effects on the animal spirits are more violent; the mind is more overpowered, and less under its own command.
Just as all the exercises of the inclination and will either approve and like, or disapprove and reject, so the affections are of two sorts: they are those by which the soul is carried towards what is in view, clinging to or seeking it; or those by which it is averse to and opposing it.

Of the former sort are love, desire, hope, joy, gratitude, and complacence. Of the latter kind are hatred, fear, anger, grief, and such; it is not necessary to define these now in particular.

There are some affections in which there is a composition of each of the aforementioned kinds of actings of the will. For example, in the affection of pity, there is something of the former kind towards the person suffering, and something of the latter kind towards what he suffers. And so in zeal, there is high approbation of some person or thing, together with vigorous opposition to what is conceived to be contrary to it.