Wednesday, August 29, 2012

By Their Fruits You Will Know Them, Sign 2—Elul 11

Here’s another sign that Jonathon offers in his Treatise on Religious Affections that may help us put aside condemnation.

2. “Gracious affections soften the heart, and are attended with a Christian tenderness of spirit… [Gracious affections] turn a heart of stone more and more into a heart of flesh.” (IX)

In interpreting this sign he counsels that one must banish “servile fear,” the fear of punishment for wrongdoing, and let it be transformed into “reverential fear,” the awe and love of God for God’s own sake, not for sake of fear of punishment for sin or hope of reward for right doing. As Edwards explains, the person who lives for the sake of God is not afraid of evil, in himself or others, for he trusts in God.
When one trusts in God, one lives in and for God, and is not selfishly concerned for one’s own salvation or morbidly concerned with controlling the beliefs, affections, practices, and salvation of others. This reminds me of the ninth-century mystic Rabi’a, who prayed God to chastise her if she lived out of fear of hell or hope or paradise and not out of love for God alone.

We’ll look at a third sign from Edwards tomorrow.

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