Today we turn to Jonathan Edwards, that master of discussing Christian experince and his concept of the affections. We would be wrong to assume that affections are simply the emotions as the following quote makes clear. Although this idea does include emotions, it relates to the entire inclination of our heart and wills. When thinking about our affections, we have to ask “what draws our heart’s attention?”
Jonathan Edwards’s Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections (1746) has provided the best explanation of what must take place within the preacher. By “affections” Edwards meant one’s heart, one’s inclinations, and one’s will. As Edwards said, “true religion consists in a great measure in vigorous and lively actings and the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart.” Edwards demonstrates from a cascade of Scriptures that real Christianity so impacts the affections that it shapes one’s fears, hopes, loves, hatreds, desires, joys, sorrows, gratitudes, compassions, and zeals.
This is what should routinely happen to the preacher: the message should work its way through his whole intellectual and moral being as he prepares for and practices the proclamation of God’s Word. When the message has affected him deeply, then he is ready to preach. Sermon preparation is twenty hours of prayer. It is humble, holy, critical thinking. It is repeatedly asking the Holy Spirit for insight. It is the word penetrating into the depths of the preacher’s own soul. It is ongoing repentance. It is utter dependence. It is a singing heart.
Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2575.